It could of just been an off night, or maybe the orange & white have been drinking a bit of the kool-aid. Regardless, Monday night wasn’t the best showing against a lesser opponent. But in the end, UT used their calling card, team defense, to shut down the Mocs and advance to 5-0 on the season.
The Vols had multiple stints in the game in which they couldn’t buy a basket. Two five minute spurts found the home team field goal-less. The usual team chemistry and willingness to make the extra pass wasn’t apparent early, and the rust on the offensive side of the ball never really wore off.
The good news for Tennessee is that their leaders picked up the slack when the going got tough. Jordan Bowden recorded his first double-double as a Vol with 13 points and 12 rebounds on 39 minutes played. Lamonte Turner continued distributing the basketball at a high level with 12 assists in 35 minutes. Turner was leading the SEC with 8.5 assists a game going into Monday’s match-up, I don’t think that’ll be changing anytime soon. He also led the team in scoring with 17 points on the night.
John Fulkerson was a bright spot in the rugged second half for the Vols. He scored all 14 of his points in the second period while pulling down four boards on the evening. His offensive post game is taking strides and he will be relied on all season to fill a void of size in this lineup. A lot of John’s finest moments come as the acting glue guy for UT. His defensive rotations and ability to erase shots make him so important for this team.
Yves Pons finally cooled off in terms of scoring, but his athletic presence was still felt all night with pungent blocks and 4 strong rebounds. It’s also worth noting that newcomer, Josiah-Jordan James, hit double figure rebounds for the second consecutive game. He finished with 11 rebounds while only logging 23 minutes of action. James has an incredible amount of potential with his length, on ball defense, and ball handling ability. With vet, Lamonte Turner, dominating ball handling duties, James seems to be in between roles a bit. I expect he’ll take huge strides in the off season and be a huge part of the 2020 campaign.
The ability to get production out of the front court will dictate how successful this 2019-20 team will be. It’s extremely early, but I could see this team being as high as a four seed in the NCAA tournament if they play up to their potential. Any injuries of big minute players would be absolutely detrimental to this team’s cause. Durability will be an important factor to keep an eye on in the coming months.
Tennessee eyes a match-up with Florida State on Friday in the Emerald Coast Classic. The Seminoles are 5-1 with their only loss coming to Pitt in the first game of their season. Their most notable win on the season is against in-state rival Florida a few short weeks ago. This will be Tennessee’s second big test of the year, following a dominant win over #20 Washington in Toronto. Size and ability to be effective in the paint will decide who wins this game.
Tennessee hopes to keep up their winning ways as they continue to rise up the AP poll. The team also hopes to keep up their home winning streak, which was extended to 30 games with the victory over the Mocs. Rick Barnes has a lot to iron out in film before Friday, but a win is a win.