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Tennessee Basketball finally gets the rest it needs in 88-53 win vs. Vanderbilt

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Sometimes the evidence is so overwhelming that a coach can’t stick by his philosophy no matter what it says. Rick Barnes was faced with that situation as Tennessee Basketball obliterated the Vanderbilt Commodores at home 88-53 on Saturday.

The Vols led by 38 points with over 13 minutes to go. Barnes, who lives by the philosophy that you earn playing time and will usually stick to it even if it means his starters have to log way too many minutes, finally did what he should have done multiple times in the past.

Dalton Knecht, who had 14 points at that moment, was pulled and went to the bench. Eventually, Barnes pulled everybody, and Tennessee Basketball was finally able to go deep enough to give its rotational players a necessary break. Stand up and applaud Barnes for finally doing it.

It was too flawless of a performance by UT at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., to do anything different. Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi had each gone 4-of-5 from three with 14 and 12 points respectively. Josiah-Jordan James was 3-of-5 from three with 13 points.

Jonas Aidoo was dominant down low with 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Tobe Awaka, who finally went over the 10-minute mark and logged 16 off the bench, was able to finish with nine points, three boards, a steal and a block. This team shot 14-of-31 from three and was dominant defensively.

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Simply put, Tennessee Basketball was the far superior team and also just had everything go right for it on top of that. Such a combination leads to an easy blowout, and it doesn’t matter that Jordan Gainey and Jahmai Mashack both had off-games shooting.

There’s not much we can take from this game going into March. Vandy isn’t good, and the Vols had one of those red-hot performances that come once every maybe four games. However, it actually was valuable because of who was able to log significant minutes.

None of the starters played more than 24 minutes. Barnes played eight guys off the bench, including five who aren’t in the rotation. Freddie Dilione and Cameron Carr saw the most action, and Carr went 2-of-4 from three with eight points, proving he should play more.

J.P. Estrella has a leg injury, giving the Vols depth issues down low, but Cade Phillips came in and logged 10 minutes, picking up three rebounds. Two walk-ons got in on the action as well, but the key for this game was that 11 players were able to log double-digit minutes.

Barnes needs to make sure he does more of this in the future. Tennessee Basketball has a lot of high-profile games coming up, but he can rest them for their next game, a trip to the Missouri Tigers, and despite what happened two weeks ago, he shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Texas A&M Aggies at home.

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