The reasons behind No. 3 Tennessee’s 17-game home winning streak—the longest such streak under head coach Rick Barnes—manifested themselves during the Vols’ SEC opener on Saturday.
By halftime, Tennessee led Georgia 53-24. For the Bulldogs, it got even worse in the second half, as the Vols went on to win 96-50 at a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Today, we just had a really good performance and things went our way,” Barnes said.
The 46-point victory tied the second-largest winning margin of all-time in an SEC game for Tennessee.
Senior Admiral Schofield and junior Grant Williams, as they have done many times this season, led the way for Tennessee. Schofield had 13 in the first half and Williams had 15 before intermission.
Both players finished the game with 18 points.
“When they went to their little matchup zone, the first thing we did was put Admiral inside and say we are going to run a little cut to get him in there and let him stay there,” Barnes said. “I think the more options you have when teams get ready to play you is for them to say ‘look you gotta guard this guy, you gotta guard that guy.’”
Junior guard Jordan Bowden had a team-high 20 points off the bench, including 13 in the first half on 5 of 7 shooting.
Bowden was averaging just 7.9 points per game coming into Saturday’s contest.
“I was just being aggressive and let the offense come to me,” Bowden said. “Just being aggressive within the offense and first, just playing defense. Defense gets me going.”
The first time Bowden was pulled from the game, Barnes said he was not playing like he had been practicing and wanted him to be more aggressive.
“I thought he (Bowden) came back and just let the offense work for him,” Barnes said. “He did his work early. He came off screens looking to attack.”
Tennessee held Georgia to 50 points on 32.1 percent shooting. The Bulldogs were just 1 for 20 from three-point land.
The Vols won the rebounding battle 45-30.
“Obviously they had a tough day,” Barnes said. “I’ve been on that side too, where you have some looks and they just don’t go in…obviously they are a better shooting team than they played today.”
Tennessee shot an efficient 53.1 percent from the floor and 6 of 18 from deep. The charity stripe was kind to the Vols, as they finished 22 of 26.
Senior Kyle Alexander recorded a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 14 rebounds, marking a career high in boards.
“I thought today Kyle Alexander may have been as good as he has been,” Barnes said. “He came out and really had a presence early on the defensive end and rebounding the ball.”
Lamonte Turner, who had been sidelined with an injury and was not expected to play, participated in pre-game warmups and entered the game in the first half.
“He came in and started feeling like he was ready to do it,” Barnes said. “It wasn’t until after shoot-around where we thought he would try to do it. He hasn’t had a lot of practice; I thought he handled himself well…we can’t get to our full potential without him.”
Despite his lone shot attempt in the opening half resulting in an air ball, Turner finished the game with six points and two assists in 15 minutes. He received a standing ovation when he entered the game.
“It felt good,” Turner said. “I didn’t know they was going to do that. I mean I know a lot of people were wondering when I was going to play, but I didn’t know it would be like that. It felt great, I was glad to get back out there.”
Tennessee returns to action on Tuesday at Missouri. The game is set to tipoff at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.
“The key going forward is how we are going to handle it when we’re not shooting the ball well,” Barnes said. “How are we going to handle it when we are not playing as well as we are capable of, because it is going to happen.”