In Thursday night's game with Lipscomb the Vols hit just 38 percent of their field goal tries, lost the backboard battle 43-33 and couldn't buy a break. In spite of this, Tennessee kept grinding and grinding, eventually posting a 69-58 victory.
The Vols notched similarly ugly wins against Louisiana Lafayette (83-76) and Murray State (64-53) earlier this season.
Since Tennessee isn't blessed with superior talent or overwhelming depth, the Vols may have to "grind" their way through a lot of their Southeastern Conference games this season. That being the case, Thursday's defeat of Lipscomb should prove to be a useful learning tool.
"This was a good example for us," senior forward Stanley Asumnu said. "We had to buckle down, stay within the game plan and find a way to win."
The way Tennessee found was defense. With the offense sputtering all night long, the Vols forced 21 turnovers and converted just enough of them into baskets to finish on top.
Asumnu explained it this way: "What we did was on the defensive end, make ‘em turn the ball over and then make plays."
Tennessee's offensive philosophy is simple: Strike before the defense has time to get set. For whatever reason, the Vols' transition game never got going against Lipscomb, however.
"We tried," Asumnu said. "We pushed it. We got a couple of things here and there but it wasn't a good night."
Still, the fact Tennessee won on a not-so-good night qualifies as a positive development. It shows the Vols are mature enough – and resourceful enough – to win even when they don't bring their A-game.
Or, as Asumnu put it: "We've just got to continue to grind it out, continue to do better each day than the day before."