5 Observations: Tennessee 75, No. 20 Washington 62

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    Washington scored the first points of Saturday’s game thanks to a made free throw, and they briefly grabbed the lead back again on an Isaiah Stewart jumper within the first minute-and-a-half of the game. But after that, it was pretty much all Tennessee.

    The Vols led for 38 minutes and 28 seconds of game time on Saturday, and they defeated No. 20 Washington 75-62 up in Toronto, Ontario. Tennessee (3-0) led an efficient offensive attack and also frustrated the Huskies (2-1) defensively, holding Washington to 40 percent shooting and 27.8 percent shooting from three.

    Four different Vols scored in double figures, with senior Jordan Bowden again leading the way. Bowden totaled 18 points, with Lamonte Turner (16), Yves Pons (15), and John Fulkerson (14) also eclipsing double-digits. Josiah-Jordan James got close with nine points. Turner got dangerously close to a triple-double, totaling eight assists and seven rebounds to go with his 16 points.

    Tennessee tightened their rotation some, as only seven Vols played against Washington. Davonte Gaines, Drew Pember, and Zach Kent all rode the bench for the entirety of the game.

    The Vols got out-rebounded, gave up 30 points in the paint compared to scoring just 26 themselves down low, and got outscored 12-5 in second chance points. But the game hardly ever looked in doubt for Tennessee, and they picked up their first win over a ranked opponent this season.

    Here are our biggest takeaways from the Vols’ 13-point win over No. 20 Washington.

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    ALL of the Assists

    In the first half of Saturday’s game, the Vols were extremely efficient on offense, picking up assists on all 15 of their made field goals. In the second half, there wasn’t quite as much teamwork in regards to passing, but UT’s offense still racked up a ton of assists.

    Tennessee finished their match-up with No. 20 Washington with 19 assists on 25 made field goals. The Vols only totaled four assists in the second half, but as a team, they’re continuing to be one of the top assisting offenses in the country just like last season.

    Lamonte Turner led the way with eight assists (though he also had six turnovers, while Josiah-Jordan James totaled a career-high five assists in the game. James also had a career-high nine points for the Vols.

    Jordan Bowden (3) and John Fulkerson (2) both had multiple assists in the game as well.

    On the season, Tennessee now has 59 assists as a team in three games.

    Kept Them at Arm’s Length 

    After a blistering first half on offense and a strong showing on defense, the Vols were frustrated in the second half thanks to Washington switching up their defense to a man-to-man look and finding some rhythm on offense. But Tennessee never let the game get out of control.

    The Vols led the Huskies by double-digits for most of the game, but Washington went on a run in the second half starting at about the 15-minute mark. The huskies got Tennessee’s lead down to seven points on two different occasions in the second half thanks to the Vols going on a cold spell on offense.

    But that’s as close as Washington could cut it.

    Tennessee withstood that comeback attempt by the Huskies, and they kept UW just out of reach even when they couldn’t hit buckets. UT’s defense never let Washington get on too much of an extensive run, and that was enough for Tennessee to salt things away in the second half.

    Defense Showed Up Again

    Just like in the first two games of the season, Tennessee’s defense came to play on Saturday.

    The Vols had issues stopping Washington in the paint early in the game, but John Fulkerson and Olivier Nkamhoua adjusted as the game went on. After that, Tennessee’s defense was strong against an inconsistent Husky offense.

    Washington made just five of their 18 three-pointers after connecting on over 36 percent of their threes as a team in their first two games. Tennessee forced 17 Washington turnovers, and nine of those were steals by the Vols. UT also blocked six shots, with both Fulkerson and Nkamhoua getting two apiece.

    Saturday’s game was very physical, especially in the first half. Washington is a very athletic team, and this team would’ve given even last year’s Vol squad some issues with their paint presence. But Tennessee never backed down, and they scrapped their way to a 13-point victory thanks in large part to their defense.

    Slowing Down the Stars

    In the first half, former five-star prospect Isaiah Stewart was having his way in the paint. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound freshman was bullying his way past Fulkerson or Nkamhoua, and he totaled 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. If not for picking up two fouls and having to sit briefly, he might’ve done even more damage. Nahziah Carter, who came into Saturday’s game as Washington’s leading scorer at 18.5 points a game, was also a force, slamming home three dunks and leading the team with 12 points.

    But the second half saw both players nearly disappear.

    Outside of another Carter dunk, both he and Stewart were stymied in the second half. Carter totaled six points on an inefficient 3-of-9 shooting, and Stewart totaled just four points on 2-of-6 shooting. Both were able to make impacts in other ways, as Carter finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and Stewart also got a double-double with 10 boards. But UT was able to keep those two from doing a lot of damage offensively in the second half.

    Fellow former five-star prospect Jaden McDaniels had to step up his scoring effort in the second half, picking up nine points. But he only made three of his 10 shot attempts, and he finished with 15 points on just 6-of-17 shooting. Quade Green found a spark in the second half, scoring 10 points after totaling zero in the first half.

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    Vols Back in the Rankings? 

    With Saturday’s win over a ranked opponent, Tennessee will most likely jump back into the AP Poll after starting the season unranked.

    The Vols have won all three of their games to start the season by double-digits, and Saturday’s was the most impressive so far. Tennessee led by double-digits for most of the night against a top-20 opponent on a neutral court. While Washington certainly gave the Vols some issues at times, the game never really seemed out of hand for Tennessee.

    Last season, the Vols were a wire-to-wire top-10 team for the first time in school history. This season, they began the year outside of the top 25 in the AP Poll.

    That will probably change come Monday.

    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.