It was quite a night for the Tennessee fanbase.
The No. 3 Volunteers basketball squad found itself in a hole early against former coach Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri Tigers.
Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield struggled to get looks while Missouri continued to operate from the 3-point line. The Vols matched their largest deficit of the season, being down by nine twice in the first half. Then, in seemingly an instant, Tennessee fans were basking in the glory of avenging Martin’s squad and celebrating the news of a big football hire by the time the Vols put a bow on their 87-63 rout.
Here is what we learned Tuesday night:
Alexander The Great Part Deux
Senior Kyle Alexander is on a tear right now. He is looking more and more like an All-SEC caliber forward as conference play opens. Alexander has has reached double-figures in five out the last six games. After Tuesday, he has 31 rebounds in the last two contests. The lean machine is rebounding with a purpose and crashing the boards with fervor.
The Tigers presented no answer for Alexander, who posted 14 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks. With help from other forwards, namely Williams and John Fulkerson, Alexander dominated the post on defense. Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon only played nine minutes. He fouled out with three points and a rebound. Kevin Puryear finished with nine points and was never a threat.
The Vols out-rebounded the Tigers 38-29 thanks to Alexander’s presence. The Canadian also continues to be ultra-efficient on offense. He is shooting a very nice 69 percent from the field.
If this type of production continues, all-conference accolades will be awarded before he exits Rocky Top.
Bone Sets the Tone
Tennessee struggled in the first half due to a stingy Tigers’ defense. Martin is known for teaching a tough, Keady-like approach for half court sets. So much so, that his stubbornness and lack of adaptability causes his teams to dismantle, as was the case Tuesday night.
All Tennessee needed was a few possessions of transition. When Missouri’s shots stopped falling, Jordan Bone attacked.
In what was already a bad matchup, Bone utilized his speed to push tempo and avoid Missouri’s tight defense. He finished the first half with 15 points and four assists.
This is a major reason why the Vols are so dangerous. Their adaptability is uncanny. When an opponent is able to disrupt their half-court sets and deny Williams, Bone is waiting for the green light to open up the floor and capitalize in transition. Even a small dose of it threatens the defense. Bone is able to make this happen by flashing down the court after a defensive rebound and forcing the defense to become imbalanced.
After doing so much damage in the first half, Bone let the offense take care of itself the rest of the way. He only scored two more points in the second half, but finished with five rebounds and five assists. The junior led all players with 35 minutes.
Lamonte Settles In
After a rough shooting day against Georgia, Lamonte Turner was probably anxious to see some outside shots go in. All of his points against the Bulldogs were the result of drives, whether it be at the bucket or charity stripe. He was 0-for-3 from distance.
Tuesday’s performance was a better indication of Turner finding his groove from the arch. He finished 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
The reigning SEC Sixth Man of the Year continues to struggle defensively by picking up egregious fouls. But most importantly, Turner is logging valuable minutes and getting acclimated to rigors of SEC play after missing a significant amount time. The junior logged 29 minutes against the Tigers.
The onslaught ensued when the Vols were down 27-18 and Turner nailed his first three. The next 27 minutes were all Tennessee.
The only thing missing from this vicious machine is a consistent outside presence. The more minutes Tuner accumulates, the more dangerous Tennessee becomes. As if they weren’t already dangerous enough.
Vols Adapt Yet Again
The BasketVols are essentially a chameleon.
Despite an underwhelming performance from its leader, Tennessee showed no signs of anxiety. Williams fouled out and finished with four points and a rebound. It was his worst shooting performance (1-of-8) since the Vols’ loss at Georgia last year, which was also the last time they lost a true road game. The abysmal point total against Missouri was his lowest since the Oregon game in the Maui Invitational his freshman year (3).
Williams’ counterpart, Schofield, also got off to a slow start. The two went a combined 1-for-9 in the first half. Schofield had the lone 3-pointer.
The latter feasted in the second half when the Vols opened up. He finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Jordan Bowden continued to find buckets as well. He went 7-for-8 from two-point range despite ongoing struggles from distance. The junior finished with 20 points.
There has yet to be a defense that can come close to constricting Tennessee’s attack. There have been brief moments when Tennessee stalls, but ultimately the Big Orange Machine keeps rolling thanks to a supporting cast that can dominate when the stars don’t shine.