Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is quite the advocate for ball movement and running a smooth offense that gets everybody involved.
At the helm of a team that boasted five double-digit scorers, he was in for a pleasant holiday surprise as his third ranked Vols hosted the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday.
Grant Williams tallied a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Kyle Alexander notched a career high in scoring with 19 points to go with eight rebounds as Tennessee dusted the Demon Deacons 83-64.
Jordan Bone scored 18 points and Admiral Schofield added 12 for the Vols who have now won six in a row.
“I thought our offense was a product of our defense (today),” Barnes said. “I thought we moved the ball and we were able to get out into the open court.”
Despite jumping out to a quick lead and hitting on nearly 50-percent of their attempted shots in the opening half, the Vols were in need of an early spark.
They found that in the form of the reigning SEC Player of the Year, and he delivered.
Totaling 17 points in the first half, Williams was seemingly unstoppable as he continued to beat the Wake Forest defense.
Knocking down 5-of-5 free throws during that span, it seemed he was well on his way to a high-scoring affair as Tennessee took a 12-point lead into the locker room.
That’s when the rest followed suit, and the Vols never looked back.
After finishing the opening period with six points, Alexander exploded for 13 in the second half. The senior connected on 6-of-7 shots during that span as Tennessee’s lead continued to increase.
Primarily a rim-protector and rebounder for a vast majority of his career, Alexander was disappointed about not reaching the 20-point plateau for the first time.
“We have a running joke going about that,” Alexander said. “I’ve never had a 20-point game in my life and I blew it.”
Picking up where he left off on Tuesday, Bone recorded 11 points and four assists during the game’s final 20 minutes of play, putting Wake Forest increasingly in the Vols’ rearview mirror.
His 5-1 assist/turnover ratio gives him 16 total assists in the last two outings with just three total turnovers during that span.
Backed up by a 10-point half from Schofield, Tennessee rarely let its foot off the gas pedal as it knocked down shots at a 59-percent clip over that stretch.
One of the deeper teams in college basketball, the Vols credit their depth with offseason determination, something Alexander noted following Saturday’s win.
“We have a lot of guys on our team that can score,” Alexander said. “We worked as hard as I’ve seen us this past offseason because everyone wants to get better.”
Today also marked the second consecutive game in which the Vols didn’t rely on the three-point shot, hitting on just 3-of-13 attempts from that distance.
Tennessee attempted just three total over the final stretch of regulation while hitting on 14-of-26 from inside the arc after hoisting just 20 against Samford.
As conference play nears its starting point, the Vols aren’t getting caught up in early season blowouts. With the true challenge ahead, they’re well-aware of the harsh realities spring can bring.
“We can play a lot better, and we know that,” Bone said. “The way our season ended last year is a feeling that never leaves you. We always have to do more.”