It may have taken three months to figure out, but the point guard rotation seems to be coming into focus. We knew Tennessee was deep, but we didn’t know who the leaders were going to be in the backcourt. Early in the season, it seemed like Jordan Bone was going to be the guy, but his inconsistencies forced Rick Barnes to look elsewhere.
Bone has seen his minutes decrease since Tennessee’s two game losing streak against Arkansas and Auburn. He logged 38 and 32 minutes in those two games, respectively. In the last three games, Bone has played just 16, 13 and 17 minutes.
That has obviously freed up minutes for Lamonte Turner and James Daniel. Turner specifically has taken advantage, scoring 25 and 20 points in two of the last three contests. Without Turner’s effort in South Carolina, the Vols don’t come away with a win against the Gamecocks.
In fact, since that first half against South Carolina, Turner has gone turnover free. That’s over 79 minutes and counting without a single turnover.
His scoring is what will be most talked about, but @Vol_Hoops sophomore @LTurn1 is riding a streak of 79+ consecutive minutes played without a turnover, dating to the first half at South Carolina Jan. 20. pic.twitter.com/SGwA4OTbnc— Tom Satkowiak (@TomSatkowiak) January 28, 2018
Turner has battled inconsistent play this year, like Bone. Rick Barnes described his play after the South Carolina game as “sporadic.” He says that his scoring isn’t what he’s worried about.
“I don’t care if he scores,” Barnes said. “I want to see him play defense. I want to see him do all the other things. Our point guard is important for us in terms of setting the tone for our defense.”
I’m not sure I totally buy that quote, but you get the point. It’s about more than just scoring points.
To start this month, we really didn’t know who was going to step up offensively outside of Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. Maybe, just maybe, we’re seeing Turner step into that third scoring option. Obviously, you want to see more consistency from the sophomore guard, but he’s earned the bump in minutes. We may have just witnessed Turner turn the corner as a player.
Tennessee needs his confidence as a shooter. This roster badly needed a guard to step up and hit big shots. Turner has done that over this stretch of games and will demand more attention going forward.
This team doesn’t need 15-20 points every night from Turner to win. But it’s good to know that he has that ability in his back pocket in case Grant or Admiral don’t have it on a particular night.