Regarded as a mid-tier SEC matchup, the Tennessee vs. LSU game turned out to be just that. Tennessee took a strong lead into halftime and never looked back, thanks to athletic players and knock down shooting on the perimeter.
Before we get to Tennessee’s stellar play, it should be noted that LSU’s press on Tennessee was a good effort, maybe a good idea, but ultimately made the players tired, without creating many turnovers. Tennessee only averages nine turnovers a game, and they did pick up three early in the first half, but Tennessee’s quickness and athleticism found a way to split the press on most occasions, which led to open shots for their solid perimeter shooters. (See picture above. That’s not trick photography, there are no LSU defenders in frame.)
Tennessee’s Jordan McRae started off driving to the basket using his impressive length to finish at the basket with ease. Later on, with defenders sagging and open space created by breaking the press, he started knocking down threes from all over the court. In addition to McRae, Antonio Barton went 4-for-4 from three-point land in the first half, which basically accounted for their lead at the end of the first frame.
The bright spots for LSU were Johnny O’Bryant III and Jordan Mickey. O’Bryant was able to score on old school post moves down low, and Mickey scored in transition, but Tennessee’s length and agility were too just too much for LSU overall. At times, once the press was broken, it looked like 5-on-4 basketball because there was often a man left behind at halfcourt. With Tennessee’s hustle, combined with their daggers from deep, LSU never had much of a chance.