Tennessee’s men’s basketball team cruised to a 107-59 victory over Eastern New Mexico on Wednesday night in the Vols’ lone exhibition of the preseason.
The Vols got going early, winning the tip and jumping out to an 11-10 lead thanks to six points from John Fulkerson and four points from Lamonte Turner. Junior Devin Pullman kept the Greyhounds in it early on, draining three 3-pointers to score nine of the team’s first 10 points.
ENMU claimed a three-point lead a few moments later, but the Vols quickly responded with a 7-0 run to reclaim a 23-17 lead. They wouldn’t look back, eventually pushing the run to 16-2 and snagging a 52-28 halftime lead.
Turner was terrific in the first half, scoring 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. He was 3-of-4 from three.
Tennessee started off the second half slow. Eastern New Mexico outscored the Vols 10-5 to begin the half, but UT still led 57-38 with 16 minutes remaining despite missing their first six shots of the half.
The Vols turned it around following the media timeout, going on a 10-0 run to push their lead back to 29. From that point on, ENMU would never get any closer. Tennessee would lead by 50 at one point in the second half as the offense picked up, but the Vols ultimately won by 48 points.
In the second half, UT shot 47.6 percent from the field to finish the game shooting 50 percent as a team. Tennessee finished 8-of-26 from behind the three-point line and held Eastern New Mexico to 27.7 percent shooting for the game.
Here are a few of observations from Tennessee’s win.
Senior duo leads the way
Turner and Jordan Bowden combined for 45 points on 15-of-26 shooting from the field. The duo was 5-of-11 from behind the 3-point line and also combined for 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Individually, Turner scored a game-high 23 points, while Bowden scored 22.
“Those guys have worked as hard as anybody since we’ve been here,” Barnes said of Turner and Bowden. “We need them to have big years, and they’re going to do their part.”
The aspect of Turner and Bowden’s game that Barnes didn’t like, however, was the amount of turnovers. They combined for 10 of Tennessee’s 18 turnovers.
“They were trying to do a little bit too much,” Barnes added. “Overall, other than the turnovers, I’m happy with their effort and what they’re trying to get done.”
Tennessee’s newcomers unofficially debut
All four of Tennessee’s true freshmen saw action against Eastern New Mexico.
Highly-touted guard Josiah-Jordan James was the first off the bench, scoring 10 points in his unofficial debut. James was 5-of-10 from the field and 0-for-3 from behind the 3-point line. He also had seven rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes.
“I think he did okay,” Barnes said of James’ play. “This is the most he’s played in six weeks, what he’s done tonight. He hasn’t been through a full practice in six weeks.
“For his lack of practice, I think he did a pretty good job.”
Tennessee’s two freshmen post players, Olivier Nkamhoua and Drew Pember, each scored 7 points apiece. Nkamhoua was 5-of-6 from the free throw line to go along with five rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes of action. Pember, who exited the game due to a right ankle injury with 2:45 remaining, grabbed three rebounds.
Davonte Gaines chipped in five points in nine minutes off the bench. The freshman lefty was 1-of-3 from the field, and he went 3-for-6 from the free throw line. Gaines also had two rebounds and two assists.
“We actually put more freshmen out there than we normally would because we wanted to see if they could work through some situations, and they did,” Barnes said. “What the freshmen have to understand is that this is different than anything they’ve done.
“Overall, I think there’s a ton of mistakes we’ll learn from, but I really believe they were trying to do the right thing.”
The only newcomer who did not play was center Uros Plavsic. The Arizona State transfer is still waiting to hear back from the NCAA as to whether he’ll be eligible this season.
First time playing together
Because of multiple injuries, Tennessee’s exhibition contest marked the first time that the team has really been able to play together. Gaines dealt with a thumb injury in the offseason, while James was bothered by a bad hip. Nkamhoua’s calf had been bothering him following the Davidson scrimmage, and Pember has dealt with a nagging foot injury. For the cherry on top, Plavsic hasn’t been able to play in games because of the pending decision on his waiver.
“Right now, this early in the season, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Barnes said. “It’s going to get down to players convincing us we can trust them, and that will determine how many guys we play, how deep we go.”
Although the team hasn’t been able to practice a ton together, Barnes feels as if this is a team that will be fine down the stretch.
“This is a team that likes each other,” Barnes stated. “The chemistry is good with this group. The older guys have helped the younger guys prepare for what they’re going to face.
“What I’ve learned about this team is that they wanna be a good team, and they understand what we want. Now it’s just a matter of getting better at our execution.”
Tennessee’s season opener is set for Tuesday night when the Vols will welcome UNC Asheville to town. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network+. UT will then face Murray State on Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. before heading to Toronto on Nov. 16 to take on Washington.