Vols Basketball vs Florida
Jordan Bowden, #23, scores during the game against Florida on Saturday February 29th, 2020 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tennessee dropped a Wednesday night matchup at Arkansas before returning home to end its three-game losing skid beating Florida, 63-58.

Tennessee got strong performances from its frontcourt and had two very different defensive performances.

Let’s see how the Vols graded out.

Backcourt

Jordan Bowden had another strong performance on the road Wednesday night at Arkansas, scoring 19 points and grabbing five rebounds. The rest of the Vols backcourt struggled to get anything going in Fayetteville.

Two weeks after torching the Hogs in Knoxville, Santiago Vescovi was ineffective against Arkansas scoring just six points and turning it over five times without an assist.

Josiah-Jordan James struggled for the third straight game, not scoring and dishing out three assists in the loss. James bounced back against Florida playing one of his best games of the season. James put together a complete performance scoring 12 points while recording eight rebounds, six assist, two blocks and a steal while turning the ball over only twice.

Vescovi played better against the Gators as well, scoring 11 points on five shots while dishing out four assists to only one turnover.

Bowden cooled down against the Razorbacks scoring 10 points on 11 shots. Bowden grabbed five turnovers and dished out two assists in the win.

Grade: B-

Frontcourt

Tennessee got reliable performances from its starting backcourt on the week.

John Fulkerson scored 15 points in Wednesday’s loss at Arkansas. The redshirt-junior grabbed five rebounds in 30 minutes.

Fulkerson followed up his performance at Arkansas with a spectacular performance against Florida. Fulkerson scored a game high 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting. The Kingsport native also made a pair of big plays late to keep Florida at arm’s length.

Fulkerson hit a contested 3-pointer as the shot clock expired for his first career triple to put Tennessee up four with a minute and a half left. After a Florida bucket, Fulkerson made it a two-possession game again with a put-back dunk.

Yves Pons was a consistent force on both ends of the court for the Vols on the week. Pons scored 12 points and grabbed nine boards at Arkansas and put up eight points, two blocks, two assists and four rebounds against the Gators.

Pons was a rock for Tennessee on the week playing 74 of 80 minutes in the two games.

Grade: A

Offense

Tennessee’s offense didn’t have one of its better weeks, failing to reach 70 points in either contest.

The Vols shot a putrid 37% from the field, 27% from 3-point range and 57% at the free throw line while digging themselves into a hole in the second half.

Tennessee limited the turnovers in the second half, ending the game with just 12, and made a run in the second half. The Vols shot 52% from the field in the second half but made only one triple failing to complete a comeback.

Tennessee’s offense was more efficient in the win against Florida shooting 52% from the field and six of 14 from beyond the arc. The Vols took care of the basket better than they’ve done in recent games, coughing it up just nine times.

Tennessee shared the ball well against the Gators too, assisting on 16 of 25 baskets.

The Vols biggest offensive disappointment against Florida was at the free throw line. The Vols got there just 13 times making only seven.

Grade: C+

Defense

Tennessee’s defense had one of its worst performances of the year at Arkansas struggling to contain the Razorbacks star guards and failing to stop the high ball screen.

Two weeks after going 1 for 10 in Knoxville, Mason Jones torched the Vols for 37 points. Jones’ backcourt running mate Isaiah Joe was back from injury and gave Tennessee all sorts of problems going for 22 points on 12 shots.

Arkansas’ 86 points tied the mark for the most given up this year for Tennessee. The Hogs shot 48% from the field and 39% from 3-point range while knocking down 27 free throws.

Tennessee’s defense looked completely different against Florida, especially in the first half. The Gators scored just 17 first half points as Florida had more turnovers (11) than made shots (six).

Tennessee’s defense struggled in the second half as Florida went for 41 points on 55% shooting from the field and 56% from 3-point range. Nevertheless, Tennessee got enough necessary stops late to secure the win.

Grade: B-

Bench

Tennessee got some limited production out of its bench at Arkansas as Uros Plavsic scored eight points and Davonte Gaines scored seven while grabbing five rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

Olivier Nkamhoua and Jalen Johnson combined for 13 minutes and two points in the loss.

Tennessee got nothing but a few limited minutes in Saturday’s win over Florida. Plavsic, Gaines, Nkamhoua and Johnson combined for just over 12 minutes in Saturday’s win.

No one on Tennessee’s bench scored Saturday as they combined for four rebounds.

Barnes did note that he was happy with his bench postgame. Noting that the limited minutes they were able to eat up proved pivotal.

Grade: C

Coaching

Barnes’ group looked overwhelmed at Arkansas, but the Razorbacks are starting to look better and are always a tough win at Bud Walton.

The bounce back win against Florida was crucial for Tennessee’s NIT hopes and momentum to close the season.

Tennessee blew another huge second half lead against Florida, but I thought Tennessee did a better job of not sitting on the ball and running its offense. In the end Tennessee picked up enough critical baskets to get the win.

Barnes continued his dominance over Florida in his tenure in Knoxville improving to 5-1 against the Gators and winning his fourth straight.

Grade: B

Overall

Tennessee’s loss in Fayetteville wasn’t the Vols best effort of the season, but that was always going to be a tough game to win.

The Florida win provides Tennessee with its first win over a NCAA Tournament team this season. The win also helped ensure Tennessee won’t be one of the bottom four seeds in the SEC Tournament and will have a first-round bye.

It was far from a perfect week from Tennessee on the hardwood, but the Vols got a must needed win against a rival.

Grade: B+

UT Sponsored Content