Vols Cruise to 2-0 with Lengthy Defensive Strongholds
For a team that returned the highest scoring freshman class in school history, Tennessee’s defense appears to be the most improved part of Rick Barnes’ team.
Against Presbyterian, the Vols strung together 28 unanswered points. Tuesday versus High Point, back-to-back three-pointers from Lamonté Turner started Tennessee on a 32-0 run. The Vols improved to 2-0 easily with an 83-54 win.
By halftime, that streak put the team up by 39. High Point handed Tennessee 16 turnovers on the night. Even with 17 of their own, the Vols are nationally top-20 in turnover margin through two games.
“It starts with defense,” Barnes said. “I don’t think there’s any question that we get our momentum from the defense. We need to get out in the open court. We don’t want to be a team that has to grind it every single time down the floor.”
On several occasions, Barnes has noted how many options his team has to bring the ball up the floor. James Daniel III and Bone primarily owned that responsibility Tuesday.
Daniel registered 10 assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes. He only took four shots.The last Vol to register 10 or more turnovers was Trae Golden in 2011.
Daniel came to Tennessee with the reputation of a scorer. Two seasons ago, he averaged better than 27 points per game. The coaching staff urged him to work on ball handling and passing rather than shooting.
“This has been one of the toughest things as far as basketball I’ve had to do, transfer my entire total game coming to Tennessee,” Daniel said. “At Howard I was more just offense and scoring the ball, here it’s all-in-your-face defense and share-the-ball offense.”
Barnes started Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield, all forwards and all returners, alongside Bone and Jordan Bowden. For all five minutes while the game was competitive, the team played a 2-3 zone.
“We spread out, we get people far enough away from the basket,” Barnes said. “You really open the court up some, and we kept talking to our guys about pressuring the ball and keeping our hands back.”
Tennessee opens the Battle 4 Atlantis next Wednesday against No. 19 Purdue. With a win, the Vols would presumably meet No. 5 Villanova on Thanksgiving Day.