Lamonte Turner & Jordan Bowden lead the way on Saturday afternoon as the Vols defeated #20 ranked Washington in Toronto 75-62. UT jumped out to a 16-7 lead early in the first half and never looked back.
Bowden had 16 of his 18 points in the first half while firing jumpers with success all around the arch. Turner had an extraordinary game in his own right, finishing with 16 points, 7 boards, and 8 assists. Which was impressive enough to be named the player of the game for the James Naismith Classic.
Tennessee played a tight rotation throughout the night with only seven players making it into the box score. Freshman Olivier Nkamhoua provided a nice defensive spurt off the bench when John Fulkerson needed a break. The other four Tennessee starters played 35 minutes or more which is absolutely insane in terms of conditioning.
With that being said, UT was sharper than they’ve been all season playing this tight knit group. Yves Pons continues to absolutely dazzle with his development. His athleticism is now being matched with a lovely lefty shooting touch that is extremely consistent. He punished Washington all night as the free throw line extended cutter against the 2-3 zone. He also met Jay Z’s nephew, Nahziah Carter, at the rim for a huge blocked dunk in classic Yves fashion in the first half.
Vet John Fulkerson banged with Washington’s big men in the paint and had success. He finished the game with 14 points and 6 boards in 29 minutes played. His glue guy mentality cannot be put into numerical value, but he really plays the role of Draymond Green for this team. It’s not always pretty, but it sure is effective. He looks to be the guy stepping up as UT is still devoid of a true center.
Josiah Jordan James continues to become comfortable in the orange & white and showed flashes of a really special talent in Scotiabank Arena. He finished with only 9 points, but they were all big league moves. With one bucket being a catch and shoot three, while another was a pull up off the dribble. He also recorded a nice dunk after UT was able to break down Washington’s press look. James could become a really special player for this Volunteer team in time.
It felt like a big time game from the tip, and it was evident that Tennessee’s guys were just used to being there. Just another day in the office, no big deal. Lamonte Turner controlled the pace of the game the entire night, hypnotizing the Huskies into playing at UT’s pace. Bowden provided the Chris Lofton mentality of “you better not leave me open” while scoring at will.
I’ve written this at least five times it feels like now, but these guys are the heart & soul of this team. On Saturday night, Tennessee looked like they could compete with anybody in the country with Rick Barnes at the helm and the two seniors keeping everyone in check.
Tennessee has two tune-up games against Alabama State & UTC before a big match-up with Florida State on November 29th. The Seminoles have already defeated preseason top 10 team Florida earlier in the season, so one could expect a battle of power five conference schools.
UT is rounding into form early on in the season. With the loss of three key starters to the NBA following last season, many weren’t sure what to expect from this team. It feels as if there is a massive chip on this team’s shoulders to prove they’re still an elite college basketball team. Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t count these guys out. And I don’t think any inexperienced team in the country wants to play Tennessee..