3 Observations: No. 20 Tennessee 76, Alabama State 41

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    No. 20 Tennessee did what they were supposed to do with an inferior opponent on Wednesday night: take care of business.

    The Vols (4-0) didn’t look at the top of their game against Alabama State (0-4) on Wednesday, but Tennessee was in control for pretty much the entire contest, beating the Hornets 76-41 in UT’s first game as a ranked team this season.

    Tennessee didn’t score a plethora of points against Alabama State, but several Vols got in on the scoring action. Jordan Bowden led the team with 16 points and three made three-pointers, and Lamonte Turner (13), Yves Pons (11), and John Fulkerson (10) all scored in double figures as well. For Pons, he’s now scored in double-digits in every game this season so far. He also had five rebounds and three blocks.

    Freshman Josiah-Jordan James led both teams in rebounds, as the 6-foot-6 guard pulled down 13 on the night. He finished with three points and five assists to go along with those boards.

    Eight of the nine scholarship Vols who played on Wednesday scored. Freshman Drew Pember scored his first points as a Vol, finishing with eight points, five rebounds, and an assist while making one of his two field goal attempts and six of his 10 free throws. Olivier Nkahmoua totaled eight points and five rebounds, and Davonte Gaines scored four points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing two assists. Jalen Johnson was the only scholarship Vol who played who didn’t score.

    The Hornets hung around some in the first half, but once the Vols hit the gas pedal, it was over. Alabama State mustered a mere 18 points in the second half, and they shot an abysmal 16.7 percent from the floor in the second half and just 28 percent for the entire game.

    Here are our three biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s win over Alabama State.

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    Ugly Offense

    Tennessee started out slowly on the offensive end, and they never really could find a rhythm against Alabama State.

    The Hornets played some pesky defense, but the Vols were just simply missing shots rather than getting frustrated by Alabama State’s defensive effort. Tennessee began 1-of-8 from three, and they had several cold stretches on the offensive end. The Vols went on a flurry from three to end the first half, mostly thanks to Jordan Bowden, but UT was only 2-of-10 from distance in the second half, leaving them 6-of-21 from three for the entire game.

    Tennessee was better in the paint, scoring 40 of their 76 points down low. John Fulkerson, Yves Pons, and Olivier Nkamhoua were big reasons for that, as the trio combined to score 29 points on the night, with Pons providing the only three among the group.

    But the Vols’ offense still struggled overall, especially with turnovers. Tennessee committed 12 turnovers on the night, including three from both Lamonte Turner and Josiah-Jordan James. Three other Vols committed multiple turnovers on the night. A large chunk of UT’s 76 points came from free throws, as the Vols went 16-of-25 from the charity stripe.

    Luckily for the Vols, Wednesday night wasn’t a bad night to have an off night shooting the ball. Alabama State was clearly an inferior team, the Vols had more talent, size, and athleticism.

    Two 1,000-Point Scorers 

    During Tennessee’s victory over Alabama State, the Vols’ senior duo in the backcourt both eclipsed significant career milestones.

    Both Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner scored their 1,000th career points on Wednesday night. Bowden got over the 1,000-point mark in the first half, and Turner joined him in the second half. Wednesday night marked the second time in the last year that Tennessee has had two players eclipse the 1,000-point threshold in the same game. In the Vols’ 92-81 victory over Louisville last year on November 21st, both Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield scored their 1,000th career point as Vols.

    Bowden finished with 16 points, two rebounds, and an assist on 5-of-12 shooting. Turner totaled 13 points, six assists, and three rebounds while shooting 5-of-13 from the field.

    First Time in Nearly a Decade

    With the win, Tennessee improved to 4-0 to start the 2019-20 season. That’s the second-straight season the Vols have begun a season with four-straight wins, as Tennessee went 4-0 last year before losing to Kansas in Brooklyn to fall to 4-1.

    This season marks the first time since the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons that the Vols have had back-to-back 4-0 starts to a season. In fact, the Vols started at least 4-0 in every year of the Bruce Pearl era from 2005-11.



    Nathanael Rutherford
    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.