3 Observations: No. 3 Tennessee 83, Samford 70

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    No. 3 Tennessee returned home on Wednesday night for the first time in over two weeks, and they defeated Samford by a score of 83-70.

    The Vols (9-1) allowed Samford (10-3) to jump out to a 5-0 lead, but they would counter with a 7-0 run of their own to take a 7-5 lead . Then after an Yves Pons ally-oop from Jordan Bowden, they took a 10-7 lead.

    It was a game of runs in the first half between the Bulldogs and Vols.

    Tennessee went on an 8-0 run to take a 21-16 lead later in the game, and then Kevion Nolan made a three to end the Vols’ run and spark a 12-0 Samford run that gave the Bulldogs a 28-21 lead. Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, and Admiral Schofield then hit back-to-back-to-back 3’s to give Tennessee the lead back. After Bone hit another three, the Vols led 37-30.

    With its defense generating stops, Tennessee closed out the first half on a 20-4 run to claim a 41-32 lead at the break. In the opening 20 minutes, Bone had 14 points while not turning it over a single time or committing a foul.

    In the second half, Tennessee out-scored Samford 42-38 to close out the game and pick up its ninth win of the season. The Vols led by as much as 20 in the second half, but a 7-0 run to end the game from the Bulldogs help Samford finish the game strong.

    Bone led the way for Tennessee, scoring 24 points and picking up 11 assists – both career highs. Schofield added 18 points and seven rebounds while Grant Williams scored 16 points and brought down five rebounds. Kyle Alexander chipped in 10 points and Bowden finished with six.

    For Samford, Ruben Guerrero was the leading scorer. Despite fouling out, Guerrero scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Josh Sharkey nearly recorded a triple-double, scoring 10 points, hauling in 10 rebounds, and picking up seven assists.

    Here are our biggest takeaways from the Vols’ win over the Bulldogs.

    Jordan Bone’s Career Night

    Wednesday night’s game was by far the best game Jordan Bone has played in a Tennessee uniform.

    Bone recorded his first career double-double, scoring 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting and tallying 11 assists. The junior was also 2-for-4 from the 3-point line. More impressive, Bone picked up just one foul and turned it over just two times. He had great command of the offense and played great defense on the other end.

    “It felt amazing,” Bone said. “That is the ultimate goal for me being a point guard, making it a lot easier for my teammates and getting them going. So, it definitely felt good to have a career-high in assists.”

    Bone’s 24 points were a career-high, and his 11 assists were also a career-high.

    “I thought he (Bone) did a great job tonight,” Barnes said. “He really worked hard. We were trying to go inside early, and he attacked the elbows, got to the basket and made one of the best layups he’s ever made, where he got it up high off the glass.”

    On the season, Bone is now averaging 13.7 points per game and is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer. He’s also averaging 6.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds.

    Samford is Good

    The score was closer than many anticipated for much of the game.

    I didn’t leave with the impression that it was because Tennessee played poorly, though. Samford is just a good basketball team. When you look at it statistically – outside of rebounding – Tennessee played fairly well.

    Samford out-rebounded Tennessee 39-36, but the Vols shot 58 percent from the field, only turned it over nine times, scored 52 points in the paint, had seven steals, and assisted on 22 of their 33 made buckets. Tennessee led for just over 31 minutes.

    Even when you look at the rebounding, it was Samford’s offensive boards that gave Tennessee fits. The Bulldogs had 16 offensive rebounds to the Vols’ seven, but Tennessee out-rebounded Samford 29-23 on the defensive glass. Pons had nine rebounds, Schofield had seven and both Williams and Kyle Alexander grabbed five boards.

    Another concerning area was the bench production. It was practically non-existent for Tennessee, particularly in the scoring department. Tennessee’s bench only scored 11 points. It was yet another night in which it showed just how much the absence of Lamonte Turner hurts the bench production. Bowden and Derrick Walker scored all of Tennessee’s bench points, dropping in six and five points respectively.

    Barnes will have things to complain about, and rightfully so, but I walked away from Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night thinking very highly of Samford rather than viewing it as a black-eye on the Vols’ resume.

    “I told our team that we beat a heck of a team tonight,” Barnes said. “I have a lot of respect for coach Padgett and what he did.”

    John Fulkerson Out

    Not only was Tennessee missing Lamonte Turner off the bench, but it was also missing John Fulkerson due to a shoulder injury. Fulkerson isn’t really sure when the injury occurred.

    Barnes was asked after the game about Fulkerson’s injury and said that had Tennessee needed him, he could have played in an emergency situation.

    “He (Fulkerson) told us if we needed him, he would do whatever he needed to do to help the team,” Barnes said. “He doesn’t have a clue what happened. He had a really good practice a couple of days ago and he came in two days ago and said ‘I don’t know why, but I’m having a hard time raising my arm.”

    Barnes expects Fulkerson to be ready for Tennessee’s next game.

    Up Next

    Tennessee will be back in TBA on Saturday afternoon to take on Wake Forest (6-3) at noon. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. The Demon Deacons will be coming off of a 67-63 win over Davidson.