Jordan Bowden got the Vols off to a hot start and Grant Williams ensured that they never looked back as Tennessee cruised to an 84-60 win over the Mercer Bears in Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night. Here’s a few things we learned from the Vols’ big victory.
Grant Williams can do it all
This isn’t exactly a new revelation, but Williams’ dominance was on display yet again as the sophomore forward led both teams with 21 points. Williams continued to show he’s a threat to score from anywhere, nailing shots in the post and on jump shots as well as a did-you-just-see-that dunk with the foul in the second half that pushed the Volunteer lead to 30 and got the crowd out of their seats.
He also showed off what’s probably his most undervalued skill with four assists on the day, including a trio of incredible passes. Williams is probably the team’s best passer, with great vision to find cutting players and the ability to put the ball just where they need it to help them score.
He gets by with a little help
Of course, one man can’t completely carry a team without any help. Luckily for head coach Rick Barnes, he has more than just one competent player. Jordan Bowden has been a consistent scoring threat on the wing, providing a secondary option when Williams is resting or double-teamed.
Admiral Schofield has been great on offense this year despite moving to a new position and Lamonte Turner has provided steady point-guard play combined three-point shooting off the bench. James Daniel was a big scorer at Howard and continues to be a threat with the ball in Knoxville, but he’s also shown an ability to spread the ball, registering 10 assists without a turnover tonight.
Having a number of consistent options to back up Williams is a blessing for Barnes, one he had to go without for much of last year thanks to uneven play from an exceedingly young team. Just one year later, those freshman mistakes have dwindled, and the team has grown together into a group that looks like a legitimate threat in the conference.
Fans are still angry
It’s hard to gather a lot of information from a blowout win against a clearly inferior team. Trying to draw meaningful long-term conclusions from a November game against a Mercer team missing their leading scorer is a fool’s errand. But one thing was still abundantly clear on Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena: Vol Nation isn’t done raising hell yet.
Throughout the game, students repeatedly chanted phrases related to the never-ending, disastrous search for the next head football coach. Whether it was support for a specific candidate to get the job (“Bring Lane Home” or “Hire Tee”) or a call for the heads to roll in administration (the loudest, most common – “Fire Currie”), Tennessee fans made it clear that they’re still wanting to be heard and understood. No one was safe from the Rocky Top Rowdies — not even the pep band, which was booed for attempting to drown out “Fire Currie” chants.
Despite a successful and fun basketball team, it’s still hard for Vol diehards to focus much on anything other than the disaster that’s happening in the athletics department.