Tennessee men’s basketball welcomed rival Florida to Thompson-Boling Arena this Saturday. The Vols were able to defeat the Gators 63-58 in a crucial game for both teams.
Here are some of the takeaways from the game.
The game this afternoon was reminiscent of last Saturday’s loss to Auburn in Alabama, in which Tennessee blew a 17-point lead over the Tigers. The Vols had a chance to win it late, but Tennessee could not make the important plays needed in the closing minutes of the contest. In today’s matchup, the Vols once again took a sizable lead early in the second half, sitting with an 18-point lead with 18 minutes left to play. Once again Tennessee saw their lead whittled down to one point with just under three minutes to play. However, the difference from the Auburn game was that the Vols made the clutch plays to get a positive result.
“We had the lead and … we didn’t adjust as well as we should have” coach Rick Barnes said. “We have so many thing that went against us this year and I told the team that as coach, you like to have a little more comfort at the end of the game. The way we won the game was probably better for us because we’ve lost so many like that. We just told them at the end ‘we’ve been there, we’ve done it … you guys have got get stops …’”
Fulkerson was the star of the game once again for Tennessee. Fulkerson, who has been playing at an All-SEC level in recent weeks, scored a team-leading 22 points. During the second half, Fulkerson’s 16 points accounted for over half his team’s scoring. Despite only making one of his four free throw attempts, Fulkerson shot the ball really well from the field, finishing 10-15 or 66.7%. His most notable bucket came when Florida has gotten the Vols’ lead down to one. With the shot clock winding down, Fulkerson sunk his first career three-pointer on what was only his second career attempt from beyond the arc.
“I told our guys I think (Fulkerson) has the best motor in the league,” Gators coach Mike White said. “I will say confidently that I’m not sure anyone plays harder than that guy, offensively, defensively, sprinting to screens, spring to the glass, cutting, you name it. He’s just, he plays with a ton of energy and intensity.”
James ends his slump
Josiah-Jordan James has been battling injuries all season but didn’t miss any games until the beginning of this month, when he missed four contests for Tennessee. Since coming back into the lineup, James has struggled until today. In the previous four games before today, James shot a paltry 5-18, including two game where he failed to complete a shot from open court. In today’s matchup, however, James appeared to be back to the player many expected him to be, shooting 50% for 12 points with eight rebounds additionally.
“Coach has been on me about playing harder,” James said, “good thing will happen. Just, that’s what I tried to on both end of the court; just play hard and not try to force anything just let the game to come to me.”
The Vols will have a tough week to come. Tennessee travels to Kentucky on Tuesday at 9 p.m. before hosting senior day against Auburn at noon next Saturday.