On a night where nothing was falling, the gritty Volunteers (18-5, 8-3 SEC) were able to gut out a 61-59 win at Rupp Arena, a feat that last happened in 2006. The win also helped secure the season sweep over Kentucky (17-7, 6-5 SEC) for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
Jordan Bowden was huge down the stretch for the Volunteers, notching 13 points and grabbing 8eightboards, but it was the human microwave Lamonte Turner who knocked down the dagger 3-pointer to give Tennessee a 59-58 lead with 26 seconds left. It should be noted that Turner’s shot was set up by glue-guy Kyle Alexander diving for a loose ball on the defensive end.
John Calipari opted to not use a timeout and let his team play it out down the court following the make, which proved costly. Kentucky looked lost on its offensive series, eventually leading to a Bowden steal and a breakaway rim-rocking dunk from Admiral Schofield that ultimately sealed the win.
THE BEST THIRTY SECONDS OF THE SEASON! pic.twitter.com/B3OwTWyPCJ
— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) February 7, 2018
If there’s a word to describe this Tennessee team, that word is tough. The Vols overcame adversity the entire night; Rupp Arena, shooting 42 percent from the field and a slew of questionable calls both ways, but that’s what good teams do, and that’s what Tennessee is — a good team.
Most people may think the first half was ugly basketball, and for the most part it was, but both teams deserve credit for their smothering defense.
Kentucky’s length caused problems for Tennessee, and the Vols returned the favor by doing what they do best, which is making teams uncomfortable in halfcourt offenses. Tennessee forced the Wildcats to commit 15 turnovers and shoot 42.2 percent from the field, including 3-of-14 from behind the arc. No Vols recorded in double-digit rebounds, but they out-rebounded the Wildcats 32-27.
Tennessee’s next-man-up mentality was in full effect in an off shooting night. Leading scorer Grant Williams only finished with 10 points due to foul trouble. Schofield finished 6-of-16 from the field, Jordan Bone finished 2-of-9 and James Daniel III finished 0-of-2, but their teammates stepped up. Once again, Turner had the hot had, pouring in 16 points off the bench. Turner was the only Vol off the bench to score.
Turner will rightfully get the attention he deserves for his big shot, but Bowden deserves a piece of that attention as well. The guard knocked down shots when Tennessee was struggling on offense, and his ability to hush the Rupp Arena crowd after small runs by the Wildcats should not be forgotten. Another overlooked asset was his ability to secure huge rebounds down the stretch eliminating Kentucky’s second chance opportunities.
The Volunteers are back in action on Saturday as Rick Barnes and his squad travel to Coleman Coliseum to take on Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) on Saturday.