Tennessee basketball: Three takeaways from Vols buzzer-beating VCU win

In a thrilling Emerald Coast Classic consolation game, Tennessee basketball beat the VCU Rams 72-69. Here’s what we learned from the Volunteers’ victory.

Lamonte Turner hit a three-pointer as time expired to give Tennessee basketball an incredible 72-69 win over the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams Saturday. The play happened just as Tennessee football was heading into halftime up 21-3 over the Vanderbilt Commodores.

UT blew a 13-point second half lead, as VCU tied it up with a three-pointer from De’Riante Jenkins with five seconds to go. The Vols then got a timeout with just over one and a half seconds to go, and that’s when the buzzer-beating shot happened. John Fulkerson led Rocky Top in scoring with 17 points, and Turner and Jordan Bowden had double-figures as well.

On the other side, Marcus Santos-Silva led VCU with 22 points, and Jenkings added 15. This was the consolation game for both teams, as the No. 17 ranked Vols moved to 6-1 one day after losing to the Florida State Seminoles, and the No. 20 ranked Rams fell to 6-2 one day after losing to the Purdue Boilermakers. Here are three takeaways from Tennessee basketball’s win.

1. Lamonte Turner continues to overcome a lot.

He’s got a shoulder-injury bothering him and left the game twice Friday due to injury. On Saturday, he was only five-of-14 from the field and had five turnovers. But Lamonte Turner remains unselfish, aggressive and clutch.

It showed with three steals, seven assists, five rebounds and 12 points, along with two three-pointers, including the game-winner. Turner deserved that, and his toughness is to be commended, even if he struggles at time.

2. Aggression in the paint was the story of the game.

The Vols got ahead because they dominated the paint. They blew their lead by going away from it. Going inside got them to the line, where they hit 15-of-16 free throws. Turner, Jordan Bowden and John Fulkerson all had key scores late inside. Yves Pons made a great pass to the paint as well. The one time they didn’t score late, Pons missed a three.

But In addition to dominating inside on offense, they did it inside on defense as well. VCU hit seven of 16 threes, but they only shot 38.6 percent from the field. That’s because UT was very aggressive inside. With his 17 points, John Fulkerson was the star inside. He had a late block and seven rebounds. Simply put, focusing on their inside game is how they win.

3. Ball movement and bench play improved but wasn’t great. 

These were the two issues for Tennessee basketball in their loss to FSU. One was turnovers. The other was no legitimate points from the bench. Well, the turnovers dropped to 13, but as we said, Turner had five playing point guard. So that’s still got to get better.

Rick Barnes played three guys off the bench, and they only combined for 13 points. Olivier Nkamhoua had four points, Jalen Johnson had five, and Davonte Gaines added four. Again, this wasn’t bad, but they could’ve been better. In this game, both being slightly better and not going away from the paint would’ve made this a blowout.