3 Observations: No. 21 Tennessee 79, Wake Forest 60

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    It wasn’t pretty, but the No. 21 Vols overcame a rough start and some questionable officiating to improve to 9-2 on the season by defeating Wake Forest 79-60.

    The Vols trailed at points in the first half, and several of Tennessee’s best players had to sit for extended periods of time because of foul trouble. There were 25 combined fouls called on the Vols and Demon Deacons (7-5) in the first half, and the two teams combined to make just 23 field goals.

    But Tennessee was able to overcome that ugly start, and they took a slim one-point lead at the half. And they never gave up that lead.

    The Vols bolted out to an 8-2 run to start the second half, and they were able to keep their distance for most of the second half and held off the Demon Deacons.

    Here are our three biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s win over Wake Forest.

    Jordan Bowden Perfection

    Jordan Bowden has scored more overall points in games in his Tennessee career, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more efficient and impressive shooting performance by him in a game.

    The local boy (Bowden played at Carter High School) was an immaculate 5-for-5 on his three point attempts in the game, and he was 2-of-2 from the free throw line to finish with a team-high 17 points on the afternoon. Bowden also chipped in three rebounds and a couple blocks.

    Bowden wasn’t the only Vol in double figures, however. All five of Tennessee’s starters scored in double digits. Admiral Schofield dropped in 14 points, Jordan Bone added 12, and both Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander had 11 points apiece.

    Ugly, But Not Sloppy

    The start to this game especially was ugly, but Tennessee picked it up in the second half and actually turned in a fairly efficient game once it was all said and done.

    Tennessee got 15 assists on their 29 made field goals, and they were able to force 20 Wake Forest turnovers. The Vols turned it over 15 times, which is slightly above their average on the year. But they shot 52.7 percent from the field, including 43.5 from three. Wake Forest shot just 37 percent on all their field goal attempts and had only seven assists on 20 made field goals.

    Best Start Since…

    The win improved the Vols’ record to 9-2 on the season and 3-1 vs. ACC teams. That 9-2 start to this season is the best start to a Tennessee basketball season since the 2009-10 team also started out 9-2. That team would make it all the way to 15-2 before losing again, and that team also was the squad that made it to the only Elite Eight in school history.

    Tennessee’s only two losses this season have been to the last two teams to win the national title. Villanova, who won the title two years ago, defeated the Vols 85-76 in the Battle 4 Atlantis earlier this year. And North Carolina, who are the defending national champs, defeated Tennessee in Knoxville 78-73 last weekend.

    This game was the last non-conference game for the Vols before the SEC season begins. Tennessee does play Iowa State in the middle of conference play, but the Vols’ next game will be against an SEC foe in Arkansas.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.