Tennessee started out in control. Then Gonzaga took over. Then the Vols fought back. And in the end, Tennessee made the bucket that mattered most.
No. 7 Tennessee (7-1) pulled off the upset over No. 1 Gonzaga (9-1) on Sunday, coming back to defeat the Zags 76-73 in Phoenix. The Vols trailed by as much as nine points with six minutes to go in the game. Gonzaga extended their lead to 64-55 after a Brandon Clarke dunk with 6:15 to go in the game.
Then Jordan Bowden nailed a three, and the comeback started.
The Vols fought tooth and nail against the Bulldogs, and they were led by Admiral Schofield’s incredible second half performance. The senior had just five points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half and wasn’t getting many good looks.
Then the second half happened.
Schofield exploded for 25 points in the second half and made five of his eight three-pointers, and he was the biggest reason Tennessee fought back and eventually triumphed over Gonzaga.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from the Vols’ huge victory over No. 1 Gonzaga.
Schofield’s Career Day
Admiral Schofield saved his best game as a Vol for his final season. He poured on a career-high 30 points in 30 minutes. He made six of his 10 three-pointers and was 12-of-22 from the field.
And he did all that without even attempted a free throw.
Schofield made bucket after bucket down the stretch, and he hit the go-ahead three with mere seconds left on the clock:
Admiral is a bad, bad man: pic.twitter.com/AmUGxExS7W
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) December 9, 2018
The senior also added six rebounds and dished out an assist. He stepped up big time in the absence of Tennessee’s spark plug, Lamonte Turner. Schofield was just one of three Vols to score in double figures, and he led and all scorers with his 30 points.
No Turner, No Problem?
Lamonte Turner, the reigning co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year, is typically Tennessee’s igniter off the bench. He doesn’t start, but he plays the same amount of minutes as a starter and is usually one of the Vols’ leading scorers.
On Sunday, though, Turner wasn’t available as he continues to rehab a shoulder injury. But the Vols survived without him, and that was thanks to Schofield and Jordan Bowden.
Not only did Schofield dump in his career-high 30 points, but Jordan Bowden came off the bench and provided a spark late in the game. Bowden had a rough start to the game offensively, but he made some clutch threes in the second half and scored nine of his 11 points in the second half.
Tennessee was without Turner for the whole game, and they had to fight the final two and a half minutes without Grant Williams.
The reigning SEC Player of the Year fouled out late in the contest, and it looked like Sunday’s game could be a repeat of Tennessee’s match-up against Kansas. Williams fouled out late in that game as well, and the Jayhawks took advantage and wound up pulling away in overtime for the victory.
This time, however, that didn’t happen.
Williams finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists in 34 minutes.
Defense Did Enough
Tennessee’s defense had lapses and didn’t have the best performance they’ve had this season. But they did enough against a potent Gonzaga offense to get the victory.
The Zags came into Sunday’s game averaging 96.4 points per game and shooting 53.0 percent from the floor, which was the best team shooting percentage in college basketball.
On Sunday, Gonzaga didn’t find scoring so easy.
The Vols held the Bulldogs to 73 points and 45.8 percent shooting. It wasn’t a lights out offensive performance by UT, but it was more than serviceable and led to some good offensive opportunities. Tennessee forced 11 Gonzaga turnovers and scored 16 points off those turnovers. The Vols committed just seven turnovers, and Gonzaga managed a meager three points off those turnovers.
Tennessee got out-rebounded 41-39, but they held a huge edge on the offensive boards. The Vols got 16 offensive rebounds compared to 11 by Gonzaga.
One reason Gonzaga’s offense didn’t run as efficiently as usual was because the Vols limited what the Bulldogs’ experienced point guard could do.
Josh Perkins entered Sunday’s game averaging 11.3 points and 8.3 assists per game. He still managed to get nine assists against the Vols, but he was ice cold from the floor. He missed all six shots he took and committed three fouls.
Tennessee’s starting point guard, Jordan Bone, was phenomenal on defense. He wasn’t great on offense, shooting just 2-of-13, but he was better than Perkins. Bone finished with five points, nine assists, and two rebounds.
Tennessee’s victory over Gonzaga marked the first time in Rick Barnes’ storied coaching career that he got a win over the top-ranked team in the country.
Barnes had 18 victories over teams ranked in the top five of the AP Poll as a head coach heading into Sunday’s game, but he had never led a team to a victory over the No. 1 team in college basketball. But that changed on Sunday.
For the Vols as a program, their 76-73 victory over No. 1 Gonzaga was their first win over the top-ranked team in the country since they toppled No. 1 Kansas in January of 2010 in Knoxville. It’s also Tennessee’s fifth win over the No. 1 team in college basketball in program history.