Tennessee was looking to bounce back from their second loss of the season at the hands of 5th ranked North Carolina on Sunday. The No. 21 Vols (8-2) played host to Furman (9-4) at Thompson-Boling Arena for midweek match up on Wednesday.
The Paladins came into Wednesday night’s match-up riding a five game win streak, and early it looked like they were looking to extend that streak to six versus a Tennessee team coming off of a tough loss at home. Match that with the late tip off just five days before Christmas and Tennessee was faced with what could be a classic “let down” game scenario. Would the Vols be able to hold off the hot Paladins or would the recipe for let down plague Rick Barnes’ squad at home?
The game was nip and tuck as both teams got off to a sluggish start offensively. After a Tennessee timeout with 11:44 to go in the first half, the game was only knotted up at 9 a piece, the offense started to click for both teams. Furman win on 10-0 run that stretched about three minutes to take a 19-12 lead, thanks in part to a couple of Tennessee turnovers and the Paladins ability to shut the Vols down in the paint.
Grant Williams was able to end Furman’s run in the form of a two-point jumper to cut the deficit, 19-14. Jordan Bowden added a three to put the Vols within two, 19-17. James Daniel III reached a milestone-2,000 points in his career with a jumper from the free throw line to tie the game, 19-19 at the 5-minute mark of the first half.
Bowden broke a 24-24 tie with a long range two and one to give Tennessee a 27-24 lead with two minutes left in the half. Thanks to strong defense by the Vols, Tennessee used a 4-0 run to close out the half, taking a 29-26 lead into halftime, their lowest point total in the first half all season.
I just like to smile. Smiling's my favorite pic.twitter.com/92TeZrAKcG— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) December 21, 2017
After the first half of play, Tennessee was shooting 33.3% from beyond the arch, and 36.7% overall, going 11-of-30 of field goals. Jordan Bowden led the Vols in scoring, going 6-for-4 shooting with 12 points.
Furman went 8-of-26, shooting 29.4% from deep and 30.8% overall. The Paladins’ Matt Rafferty (F), Daniel Fowler (G), and Jordan Lyons (G) lead the team in scoring with 5 points a piece.
Here’s a full look at the first half stats:
Tennessee’s offense got to work quickly, opening the second half with two quick baskets, courtesy of an Admiral Schofield bucket in the paint and a Jordan Bowden three to put the Vols ahead 34-26. Grant Williams was finally able to get some room with a shot off the glass to extend the Tennessee lead, 36-28.
Three minutes into the half, both teams were able to get in a rhythm on the offensive end, trading baskets back and forth on both ends of the court over a 2 1⁄2 minute period. The Paladins forced a Tennessee timeout when they closed the gap, 37-42 with 14:29 to go in the game, thanks to Guard Devin Sibley, who was responsible for all of Furman’s first 13 points of the second half up to that point. James Daniel III was able to hit a three to cool down Furman’s run and put the Vols in front, 45-39.
Still, it seemed no matter how much it started to look like the Vols were about to get hot, Furman would again go on a run and Forward Geoff Beans added a three of his own to pull the Paladins within two, 44-46 at the 11:44 mark of the second half. After both teams went scoreless over minute stretch, a foul by Grant Williams put Beans on the charity stripe for a chance at three shots. Beans went 3-for-3 to give the Paladins their first lead of the half, 47-46 with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
Tennessee revisited their offensive woes from the first half as the Vols went cold over midway through the second half, going scoreless from the floor for over six minutes before Grant Williams put one up from down low to put Tennessee ahead 52-51 with 7:19 left to play in the game.
With just six minutes left in the game, and Tennessee trailing 55-52, it was clear the Vols were going to be faced with another close game down the stretch, as they could just not quite put away the Paladins. Sibley, who had four fouls, continued to come up big for Furman, laying it up to maintain their lead, but Grant Williams, in the midst of a 4-0 Tennessee run, answered with one of his own to tie the game at 57-57 with 4:11 left in the game. No doubt at this point that this one was going down to the wire.
A defensive rebound from Furman allowed them to score in transition to take a 59-57 lead with the clock approaching three minutes. However, Bowden was able to tie the game at 59 on a lay in off a missed free throw. A rebound by Tennessee on the defensive end lead to a Schofield bucket to take a 61-59 lead, but Sibley struck again with a lay up to tie the game for the 13th time, 61-61.
If you wanted to know how much either team wanted this game, there was no better example than when both Jordan Bone and Furman’s Jordan Lyons went to the floor for a rebound off a missed three pointer. In what turned out to be one of the most defining moments in the contest, the ball went off Lyons finger tips and gave Tennessee the ball, allowing Grant Williams to score on the ensuing possession and put the Vols up 63-61 with 54 seconds left.
Tennessee padded their lead late at the free throw line as Daniel III knocked down three free throws to to put the Vols up 66-61 with 4.6 ticks on the clock. Furman’s attempt for a quick three fell short, as did their upset bid, as No. 21 Tennessee was able to escape with a 66-61 win on their home floor.
NOT NOW ARCTIC PUFFIN pic.twitter.com/794Z6csKyP— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) December 21, 2017
Admiral Schofield recorded a double double with 13 rebounds and 12 points. Jordan Bowden led the Vols in scoring with 21 points total. Tennessee shot 37.1% overall, going 23-of-62 from the floor, and 5-of-20 from three. The Vols also recorded 47 total rebounds, with 17 coming on offense and 30 defensively.