Rick Barnes’ first year as the Volunteers’ head coach has been about what’d you’d expect with a depleted roster. Essentially starting five guards, the Vols are 3-5 in SEC play. The highlight of the season was a 78-69 win over then 24th-ranked South Carolina.
You can take the easy route and point to their small lineup as the reason for their struggles, but Rick Barnes’ second-half slumps should be given all the credit.
Since conference play began, they’ve had the lead going into halftime eight times. They would lose five of those games, being outscored by an average of 13.8 points in the second half. The worst of the worse came Saturday against TCU, when they were up 14 at half, only to lose by 12 after being outscored by 26 in the second half. On ESPN game recaps, the template title for Tennessee has been “(Insert opponent) Rallies in the Second Half to Beat Tennessee.”
The sad part is, they were lucky to come away with some of those wins. Against South Carolina, they needed five 3-pointers and 27 second half points from Kevin Punter to hang on for a victory. In their first conference win against Florida, they were outscored by 8 in the second half, nearly losing a 22-point halftime lead, but they hung on thanks to Punter’s 26 points.
Considering Kentucky is 15-2 when leading at half this season, if the Cats take a lead into halftime tonight, I think it’s safe for the fat lady to start singing.