The Vols opened the 2018-2019 regular season with a convincing 86-41 win over Rick Barnes alma mater Lenoir-Rhyne Tuesday night.
Missing Lamonte Turner, who Barnes said will return on Friday, the guard play was part of the show in the blowout win, in which Yves Pons took flight numerous times to the cheers of TBA.
Tennessee held Lenoir-Rhyne scoreless for the first nine minutes of the second half in a defensive effort that had TBA on its feet as Pons & Alexander continued to put on a show with their defense.
Yves Pons vertical game was put on display last night, as he continues on his path to become a key point to this team’s depth. Alexander said of Pons “we have seen Yves in practice every single day, so we know what he is capable of. The fans are going to be so excited to see everything he can do. That was just a little taste of it tonight. With that put-back dunk, he is just so relentless and goes to the glass every day in practice. It is a habit. Teams are going to have to block him out this year”
Jordan Bone & Jordan Bowden look to have a balanced attack when it comes to guard play, as Bone put up 18 points, while Bowden had 11. When asked if he is fully grasping the PG position, Bone said “This is definitely the year that I can easily say that I get what’s going on, and I am very comfortable out there. I just feel like I have to focus more on both sides of the court. It will make me a better player as well as make the team better.”
Tennessee has the depth this season, something which was lacking for this squad in previous years. Rick Barnes was complimentary of his bench rotation “What I really liked from the very beginning was I thought our rotational guys were really, really good. I thought Yves Pons and John Fulkerson did a lot of really good things. Derrick Walker settled down and came back and did it”
Grant Williams had a nice stat sheet Tuesday night, but one thing that stood out to Rick Barnes was his rebounding (he had 7). Something his coach feels is about mindset “Well, I’ve told you guys before, he is as cerebral of a player as I’ve ever coached, in terms of understanding it. If you ask me what I think it is, I think it’s a want to. He has the ability to do it, but I think his thoughts are in other areas. To be the player that he wants to be, that has to be his number one area of ‘I’m going to do this” Come Friday night, I would expect to see the ferocity of Williams blocking out his teammates as well.
Hitting the mid-range jumper was eye opening to watch live, as Admiral Schofield seems to continue to add more parts to his game. To see the overjoyed big man take two steps & pull up for a 15-foot jumper was a majestic sight for the coaches sitting near him on the Tennessee bench, the gasp from the crowd was even better. This PB&J combination will have fans clamoring for reasons to jump out of their seats all season.
Tennessee played to their standard, but have a lot room to grow. Louisiana comes in Friday night, a team that won 27 games last season. So these Vols have another opportunity to grow before the schedule gets even tougher. I for one am excited to see how they react.