A strong second half propelled Tennessee basketball to 2-0 with a win over the Murray State Racers. Here’s what we learned from the Volunteers’ victory.
Rick Barnes’s team took a 44-35 halftime deficit and turned it into an 82-63 blowout win Tuesday night over the Murray State Racers. With it, Tennessee basketball moved to 2-0 on the season ahead of its first Power Five matchup, scheduled for Saturday against the Washington Huskies on a neutral court in Canada.
The Vols only had two players score double-figures, but it was enough as the offense took off in the second half. They scored a quality victory at home over a Murray State team that did beat Southern in dominating fashion to open the season.
With the loss, the Racers fell to 1-1. UT’s win followed a huge win by the Lady Vols against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Monday night. Here are three takeaways from Tennessee basketball’s victory.
1. Jordan Bowden went off.
Obviously, the story of the night is Jordan Bowden. The senior two-guard played like a two-guard, scoring 26 points on six-of-eight shooting from the three-point line. He carried Tennessee basketball to victory.
But the story is how hot he got in the second half, when he exploded for 19 points. Bowden was the star of the night by any measure, and he proved why he should be the go-to scoring guard this year. He did exactly what he is supposed to do.
2. Other veterans shored up major weaknesses.
Yves Pons has always been knocked for his shooting. He had a career-high 19 points and hit three of four three-pointers. John Fulkerson has been criticized for being soft. Despite four fouls, he had nine points and nine rebounds.
Then there’s Lamonte Turner. A combo guard who could never quite make the transition to point, his shot was simply not falling Tuesday, as he went two-of-12 on the night. But he had no turnovers and 14 assists. Bowden helped a lot with that, but that’s still an impressive stat. And it showed major growth.
3. Vols are still a team of runs.
Maybe it’s a Barnes thing. Anybody who watched Tennessee basketball play the last couple of years with the other veterans knows that they can get ice-cold at times. But they also know the Vols can go on red-hot runs.
They fell behind 40-28 to Murray State in the first half and were down 48-37 in the second half. Less than eight minutes later, they took the lead. Bowden getting hot, Turner being patient, Pons having a career night and freshman forward Olivier Nkamhoua emerging off the bench helped. But the fact of the matter is they still can be wildly inconsistent, and that has to improve.