In what was a potentially challenging spot for Tennessee with Christmas and a trip back home on the horizon, the Vols showed up and showed out in Winston Salem. They ran a decent Wake Forest group out of the gym in the second half, improving to 9-2 on the year right before SEC play begins.
Here’s how it played out.
In possibly the worse first two seconds of a basketball game imaginable, Tennessee star forward Grant Williams picked up a cheap foul on the opening tip. Williams has struggled with staying out of foul trouble at times this year and needless to say, the Vols struggle without him on the floor. He picked up another before the 10 minute mark on a bad call, forcing him to the bench.
With Grant’s impact minimized, Tennessee was forced to come up with a new plan of attack. The Vols were getting worked on the boards early on. Every 50-50 ball seemed to bounce Wake’s way. Tennessee went ice cold at the offensive end, struggling to find anyone to step up and really take control.
The Vols were able to hang around though. Lamonte Turner and Kyle Alexander were finally able to get a little something working, pulling the Vols back even at 26 all with under five minutes to play in the first half.
Tennessee seemed to weather the storm there, being down by as many as six points in the first half. Both teams traded baskets down the first half stretch as the Vols limped to the halftime break with Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bowden joining Grant with two fouls each. John Fulkerson picked up three fouls of his own.
I think Rick Barnes was happy with his 36-35 lead at halftime, considering the adversity Tennessee faced to get there. 11 turnovers from Wake Forest helped the Vols’ cause and may have kept them alive and in this game early on.
Tennessee came out at full strength for the first time seemingly all day out of halftime. They were able to build their lead, finally able to get Williams involved. With Grant attracting the defensive attention, Jordan Bowden got free for a couple of long range looks, which he nailed.
The Vols looked like a different group out of the break, putting together a run to go up nine points with 14 minutes to play.
The next few minutes were choppy, with plenty of turnovers and fouls. Neither team was really in rhythm, but the Vols were able to maintain their three possession lead for that entire stretch.
Wake Forest hung around though. Two free throws from Keyshawn Woods pulled the Demon Deacons back to within five points with 6:30 to play. But Tennessee answered the bell. Jordan Bone went coast to coast for a bucket and Bowden added another three ball to pad Tennessee’s lead back to nine.
A three ball from Admiral Schofield was the backbreaker. Tennessee led by 12 points at that point, with just 2:34 to play. The Vols would add to that as Wake Forest threw in the towel.
Tennessee won this one 79-60, adding another decent road win to the resume as they head into SEC play.
For the Vols today, it was Jordan Bowden leading the way. Bowden went 5-5 from three point range, adding 17 points for Tennessee. Bone showed up in the second half after struggling early, adding 12 points and five assists on the day. Schofield added 14 and five, proving to be one of Tennessee’s main offensive options with Williams on the bench early in this one.
It was good to see this group put together a strong performance after a clunker of a game against Furman. This team finished strong heading into Christmas break, in a spot where a let down could have been expected.
Tennessee will be back in action one week from today, against the Arkansas Razorbacks.