Off and on in non-conference play, Jonas Aidoo was beginning to address the one issue that could hold Tennessee Basketball back in the NCAA Tournament: Drawing attention away from the perimeter. The Vols hadn’t enjoyed an elite interior presence since Grant Williams, and without that, they won’t consistently shoot well from three.
Well, Aidoo went from proving he could be that guy in December to potentially THE go-to guy in the Vols’ SEC-opener against the Ole Miss Rebels Saturday. UT beat Chris Beard’s undefeated team 90-64 at home, and Aidoo was the star, bringing down 24 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 10-of-19 from the field.
Aidoo scored 18 of his 24 points from inside the inner circle, and he went 4-of-5 from the free throw line, demonstrating a complete game on offense. Keep in mind Ole Miss is arguably the biggest team in the SEC behind 7’5″ Jamarion Sharp and 7’0″ Moussa Cisse. That didn’t stop Aidoo from dominating.
Remember, to be fully effective, Aidoo needed to be a threat from outside the arc, which he showed in December and at the foul line in this game. Then he had to be able to outmuscle the biggest teams. That’s what Tennessee Basketball needs to take pressure off its three-point shooters in March. He did that in this one.
As a result of Aidoo’s dominance, UT was a solid 11-of-30 from three. Zakai Zeigler benefitted the most, hitting four from beyond the arc en route to 17 points and 10 assists. Santiago Vescovi finally returned to form as well, scoring 11 points while going 3-of-8 from the three-point line.
Jahmai Mashack had 11 points off the bench going 2-of-3 from three. Both were in the final 30 seconds of the first half to extend the Tennessee Basketball lead from 34-30 to 40-31 at halftime. They were huge after an Ole Miss run, and UT was able to continue that dominance into the second half.
Notice Dalton Knecht’s name hasn’t come up until now. He’s the best scorer on the team, but he only took six shots, hitting three and scoring eight. Honestly, that’s exactly how Rick Barnes’ team needs to be designed. Knecht is the scorer who takes over when everything breaks down.
Lucky for him, nothing broke down in this one. Aidoo turned into a superstar instead. By the way, Tobe Awaka deserves a shoutout, as he proved he brings the necessary depth in the post, coming off the bench to score nine points. That was only in 11 minutes, but Aidoo was so great it made sense to keep him in there.
If Aidoo keeps this up throughout SEC play, we could be looking at a potential All-American. That gives Tennessee Basketball, now 11-3 and ranked No. 5 in both polls, a complete offense. We already knew their defense was there, so with this aspect of the game, they can withstand anything in March.