Lamonte Turner is known for making clutch shots for the Vols. He’s hit a number of go-ahead and game-winning buckets for Tennessee in his career, and that continued on Saturday afternoon in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Turner nailed a three with 29 seconds to go in the game to give the Vols a 78-76 lead over Kentucky. That shot ended up being the go-ahead basket, and it helped propel Tennessee to an 82-78 victory over the Wildcats in the rubber match between the two schools this season.
The redshirt junior guard only scored seven points on the afternoon, and that three was the only one he made on four attempts from distance. But that one make was one of the biggest shots the Vols had fall for them in the game, and Turner’s defense was also crucial in Tennessee’s victory.
After the game, Turner was asked by ESPN’s Laura Rutledge about that shot, and Turner acknowledged he has a reputation for knocking down big baskets.
“I’m a big shot maker,” Turner told Rutledge. “I’ve been struggling offensively, making shots, making threes. My team never stopped believing in me. Admiral could’ve shot that shot, but he gave it to me, and I was able to make the shot.
“It feels good.”
Over his last four games heading into Saturday’s contest, Turner was averaging just four points per game and had made just one of his last 16 three-pointers. Turner only scored seven points against Kentucky and was just 1-of-4 from three, but he hit that three when it mattered most, and he impacted the game in other ways.
Turner’s perimeter defense has been solid all season, and he helped hold Kentucky’s Tyler Herro to just 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Herro scored 20 points against Alabama on Friday night and had scored 20 or more points in three of his last six games before Saturday’s contest.
Admiral Schofield was impressed by Turner’s performance and big shot.
“That’s big time by him,” Schofield said in the same post-game interview. “All year, big time. Big time defense all game.
“God is great, God is great.”
Schofield, who scored a game-high 21 points and dished out five assists, then turned to Turner and hugged him, saying “I love you” as Rutledge interviewed two-time SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams.
Speaking of Williams, he scored 20 points and brought down seven rebounds. He scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half, and he said he trusted his teammates and told them he’d help them out of they missed any shots late.
“I know that these guys have my back, and I trusted them,” Williams told Rutledge. “I told them to take the shot. I’m gonna go get it if you miss it, so take the shot. (Schofield) took it, we got it again, (Turner) took it, and he made it.
“Trust me, this is the best team in the country, and I have faith in all my brothers. I love these guys.”
Schofield shot a three on the Vols’ possession after P.J. Washington gave Kentucky a 76-75 lead with 1:06 to go. His three didn’t go in, but Williams grabbed the offensive board and ended up calling a timeout as two Wildcats were draped around him to try and steal the ball away or force him out of bounds.
It was after the Vols inbounded it after that timeout when they passed the ball around a few times and Turner drained the go-ahead three.
Jordan Bone would end up connecting on all four of his free throws in the final 10.9 seconds of the game to ice the victory for Tennessee, and the Vols prevailed 82-78 over the Wildcats after trailing 72-64 with 2:58 to go in the game.
Turner hit the go-ahead three for the Vols vs. Kentucky on Saturday, and he did the same thing a year ago in Rupp Arena to help Tennessee get their first victory in Lexington since 2006.
This time, his three helped launch the Vols into their second-straight appearance in the SEC Tournament Finals.