No. 10 Tennessee defeated Tennessee Tech 103-49 on Friday night to remain undefeated on the young season.
The Vols (4-0) continue to flex their muscles on the defensive end of the floor. They’ve still yet to allow a team to score 60 points this season as they forced 15 Tennessee Tech turnovers, tallied eight steals and blocked eight shots.
Offensively, six Vols scored double-figures. Tennessee shot 58% from the field as a team and was 9-of-19 (47%) from the 3-point line. UT scored 62 points in the paint, received 50 points from its bench and scored 18 second-chance points as it out-rebounded the Golden Eagles 45-26 and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds.
These are the three biggest observations from Tennessee’s 400th program win in Thompson-Boling Arena:
The Jaden Springer Show
Freshman guard Jaden Springer had flashed in Tennessee’s first three games of the season. But in the fourth, it was his coming out party. Springer scored a team-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 2-of-3 from behind the 3-point line.
“He was terrific,” Vols head coach Rick Barnes said after the game. “I thought he really played within himself. He had a great feel for what he was looking for. Taking care of the ball was huge. His assists were terrific.
“Jaden really understands where he wants to get the ball for himself. He obviously is a very good finisher, midrange, close to the basket, he is great at that. He has worked really hard on his 3-point shot. I thought he showed great balance.”
Springer was just as good on the defensive end of the floor. Along with his six rebounds and six assists, he didn’t commit a foul and picked up a steal.
“Defensively, he continues to get better overall there,” Barnes said. “We know he can guard the ball. I just though he was terrific all the way around tonight.”
Dominating Offensive Performance
Tennessee scored a season-high 103 points as a result of six players scoring double-figures. Along with Springer’s 21 points to lead the way, Josiah-Jordan James and John Fulkerson each scored 15 points. Keon Johnson chipped in 13 points, while Yves Pons scored 10 points, respectively.
“We like it,” Barnes said. “We want to have depth. In the past, we have had to play through one or two guys. We have got different guys because we do have depth.
“We have to continue to develop consistent offensive depth. If we can do what we did tonight, it is something we saw ourselves doing. We just have to do it. I thought our 3-point shooting was terrific. The kind of threes that we want — inside-out, rhythm threes and moving the ball and getting good looks at it. That is what we want.”
Pons turned in his best offensive performance of the season. He had gotten off to a slow start in the first three games, shooting just 8-of-26 from the field and 1-of-6 from three. Against Tennessee Tech, Pons was 5-of-9 from the field to score a season-high 10 points.
“With Yves, I want to see Yves get to the foul line,” Barnes said. “We know he has his little soft quick-ups. I want to see him attack the rim more. We want to get him to the foul line. He works too hard not to do that.
“Not concerned at all about him shooting the ball because once he does what he practices and stays in rhythm with what we do, he is fine there. I don’t think he has shot a free throw this year. We want to see him do that.”
Toying with Josiah-Jordan James in the lineup
In Tennessee’s win over Appalachian State on Tuesday night, Barnes was able to tinker with the lineup in the second half. Barnes moved James over to the four, known traditionally as the power forward position, something Tennessee had never done before.
Barnes went back to that variation of the lineup against Tennessee Tech, playing James at the four more often than when he debuted it earlier in the week.
“Josiah knows our system probably as well as anybody from all different spots,” Barnes said. “He is really starting to develop a really high basketball IQ where you can pretty much tell him something for the most part and he can pick it up right away.
“We were able to get a bigger lineup out there — a little bit of a jumbo lineup with Yves (Pons) at the three and Fulky and EJ (Anosike) out there… With Josiah, he allows us to do a lot of different things.”
James finished with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He was 3-of-5 from the 3-point line, had six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 26 minutes. His plus/minus of +45 was the best on the team.
Tennessee will be back in action on Monday night against Saint Joseph’s. Tip-off from Thompson-Boling Arena is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. It’ll be the second-to-last game before conference play begins with a trip to Missouri on Dec. 30.