Written by: Jake Wallman (@WallmanE75)
The lights inside Thompson-Boling Arena turned on Wednesday night and live basketball was seen for the first time since Tennessee hosted Georgia and clinched a share of the regular season SEC title last March.
The Vols who will open the 2018-19 campaign with their highest ranking in program history at sixth in the AP poll hosted Tusculum on Halloween night for their only exhibition matchup of the season.
It was all treats and no tricks for the Vols as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back.
The closest the Pioneers from Tusculum ever got to tying or taking a lead was at 8-5 when the game had its first media timeout.
The first half saw a lot of consistency on both ends of the floor for Tennessee. After the media timeout, Tusculum was shut out for almost eight minutes and the next points for the visitors weren’t earned, they came from the free throw line. On offense, Tennessee shot an even 50 percent from the field in the first half and had 14 points in the paint.
They forced 16 first half turnovers and turned them in to 19 points. Tennessee got power from the usual crew as Jordan Bone had nine at halftime, Grant Williams had eight while both Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bowden had seven. The game was decided and put to bed by halftime with a score of 42-14.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes was asked about the performance from the first to the second half and he said “In the first half, I thought defensively we were getting stops and consecutive stops and allowing us to get out and push the ball,” as that showed with eight fast break points.
However, the second half was a different story. Tennessee came out cold and Tusculum outscored the Big Orange at one point.
“In the second half, I just thought we got careless and sloppy with the ball, throwing the ball away. We have to be a lot better, which we know that, but it’s good to play against some outside competition,” said Barnes in his postgame interview to the media.
It wasn’t until about half way through when the squad woke up.
Bone was asked what they need to work on with the slow start in the second half, he said “That killer mindset like coach [Barnes] said, play both halves. Play the second half like we played the first one, you know the first five minutes of the game but we have to play all 40 minutes.”
Bone played point for most of the game, which is a relatively new role for him.
“This preseason, I’ve been running in and out of the one spot a lot as well as guarding the one. That’s one thing I’ve got to keep getting more comfortable at. Once I get comfortable at it, I’ll be good,” said Bone.
Barnes has even talked about the point being ran by multiple people. This could be extremely beneficial for Tennessee as it changes the pace of teams from fast to slow and score, score, score to run some clock and get the most out of the possession.
There’s a lot too this team and these guys know that. As stated earlier, the program received it’s highest ranking in the AP poll to start a year. That’s a good feeling for them and it’s different as it’s practically uncharted waters. After it was all said and done, Tennessee defeated Tusculum quietly 87-48.
Bone led Tennessee and all scorers with 16 points. He also put together two assists and two steals. Williams put up 15 points, two assist, three blocks and one steal. However, Schofield didn’t have his best night only putting up nine points being the only starter not in double digits, but the Vols bench showed up with 32 points.
Yves Pons and Jalen Johnson put up six points apiece while Derrick Walker added eight with two assists, two steals and even an impressive block.
For Tennessee, all the hay is in the barn now. This Tuesday, November 6th they play for real as Lenoir-Rhyne comes calling for a 7pm tip for the season opener at Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and also you can catch the radio broadcast from Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp on the VolNetwork, WNML-FM 99.1 and AM 990.