KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee basketball fans are missing out.
There’s a product worth watching on “The Summitt” basketball court, and while the record might not yet show it, Coach Rick Barnes has something special brewing.
It starts with Barnes’ wide-open coaching, his method of pulling anyone and everyone who’s not executing each trip down.
But the Vols’ basketball success now features the highlight play of Robert Hubbs lll, who is showing why he was a five-star recruit with elevated play of late.
Hubbs was arguably the best player on the floor at North Carolina on Sunday, scoring a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting while pulling down a team-high six rebounds.
Barnes — Hubbs’ toughest critic over the past two years — dished out rare praise for the only senior on his team following Tuesday night’s 74-68 win over Tennessee Tech.
There was an announced crowd of 11,524, but maybe only half that many people were there.
“I’ve been with Hubbs, I don’t know how many games, but he really showed me something at North Carolina,” Barnes said. “Probably this year more than any game, he really wanted to win, he was into that game like nobody else on the team.
“He had put his heart and soul into the game, and after the game he was devastated. Our guards need to understand he needs to be leading us in shot attempts.”
That’s what happened against the Golden Eagles on Tuesday, and Hubbs didn’t disappoint, making 10-of-17 shots from the floor while pulling down a team-high seven rebounds and blocking a shot to help seal with win with 32 seconds left.
“Hubbs made the play of the game when he blocked the 3-point shot in the corner,” Barnes said. “That was a great play.”
Hubbs insisted that was just him doing his job.
Perhaps, but Hubbs has put together the most impressive back-to-back games of his career, and the preseason talk he had of NBA dreams no longer seems like such a reach.
Are the past two games and indicator of what Tennessee fans will start seeing from Hubbs on a nightly basis?
“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” Hubbs replied. “I’m doing what I have to do, it’s nothing special. I’m taking my shots when they are there, and I’m rebounding the ball.
“I just have to lead by example. If I want my teammates to play hard I have to start it off.
They see me crashing glass, they’ll do the same.”
More Tennessee fans will want to see Hubbs playing hard.
The Vols are worth the price of their tickets once again, even if their record does not yet indicate it.
Tennessee next plays host to Lipscomb at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena before Sunday’s showdown with No. 8 Gonzaga (10-0) in Nashville.