After averaging 23 points and 10 assists in the first two games, sophomore point guard Trae Golden was limited by foul trouble to 13 points and 20 minutes in the Vols' showdown with No. 6 Duke. That, combined with ice-cold 3-point shooting, put the Big Orange on the short end of a 77-67 score.
A Tennessee squad that shot 62.5 percent (15 of 24) from 3-point range in Game 1 versus UNC Greensboro went 0 of 8 from beyond the arc in Game 3 versus Duke. It marked the first time since Feb. 1, 1997 that the Big Orange went an entire game without scoring from 3.
The win improves Duke's record to 5-0 and bumps head coach Mike Krzyzewski's victory total to 905, tops in the history of NCAA Div. I men's basketball. Tennessee, now 2-1, returns to action Tuesday at 2 p.m. EST against No. 8 Memphis, a 73-61 loser to No. 15 Michigan in another Maui first-round game.
The lightly regarded Vols fared better against Duke than most observers expected but that was small comfort for head coach Cuonzo Martin.
"I thought our guys did a good job of competing but we came to do more than just compete," the coach said on his post-game show. "We wanted to win that ball game. I thought our guys were prepared, thought they were focused."
The Vols didn't appear to lose their poise against Duke but they lost their patience against the high-profile foe. Shot selection left a lot to be desired — particularly in the first half, when Tennessee made just 11 of 33 attempts, including 0 of 6 from 3.
Duke ultimately outshot Tennessee 48.1 percent (26 of 54) to 41.4 percent (24 of 58) from the field and 38.9 percent (7 of 18) to zero from 3. The Blue Devils also won the backboard battle, 37-34. The Vols shot a strong 79.2 percent (19 of 24) from the foul line but finished with more turnovers (12) than assists (9).
Austin Rivers scored 18 points, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry 17 each for Duke. Mason Plumlee was a horse on the boards with 13 rebounds.
Jeronne Maymon was a bright spot for the Vols, recording his second double-double of the season. Although he made just 5 of 14 shots from the floor, he finished with team highs in both points (14) and rebounds (12). Jordan McRae chipped in 11 points and Cameron Tatum 10.
An encouraging development for Tennessee was the performance of freshman point guard Wes Washpun and freshman center Yemi Makanjuola.
Makanjuola was a whirlwind off the bench, posting 4 points, 2 rebounds and 4 fouls in four minutes.
"He did a really good job," Martin said. "He's a physical guy and a very intelligent basketball player. He understands what's going on. It's just a matter of him getting his reps in the program, understanding the things we want him to do on a consistent basis. He'll be fine. He's a physical presence out there."
After playing poorly in Game 1 and sitting out Game 2, Washpun was forced to play a key role filling in at point guard on Monday night. He scored just 2 points but did not commit a turnover in 19 minutes running the offense.
Although praised by his coach for doing "a good job of running the team," Washpun is nowhere near the offensive threat Golden is at this stage of his career. That proved costly Monday night.
"The thing about Trae Golden ... he does a great job of scoring but he's always in attack mode," Martin said. "He penetrates to get our big guys easy looks ... so I think it slowed us up from a scoring standpoint. We got somewhat stagnant offensively and forced a couple of shots in there."
Tennessee trailed 10-9 when Golden went to the bench after being whistled for his second foul with 17:23 left in the first half. Washpun guided a 12-6 spurt that put the Vols on top 21-16 but two 3-pointers by Rivers helped Duke score the final eight points of the half to take a 39-33 lead at the break.
Down just 59-55 with eight minutes left, Tennessee was outscored 15-6 over the next five minutes as Duke built its biggest lead at 74-61 with 3:14 remaining.
Though displeased with the outcome, Martin was pleased that his team did not seem intimidated by the high-profile Blue Devils.
"We're the University of Tennessee, and we're not going out and back down against an opponent," the coach said. "I tell the guys all the time: The only thing that changes is the name on the front of the jersey. Otherwise, they're all the same.'"