But a hot first half from Jordan Bone and physical play from the Vols proved to be too much for the Bulldogs as Tennessee continuously pulled away during the game en route to another blowout in Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Bulldogs got off to a quick start with a 5-0 run to open the game, but a key three-pointer from Admiral Schofield and back-to-back layups from Jordan Bone put the Vols on a 7-0 run and gave them a 7-5 lead.
Foul trouble continued to haunt Tennessee as Jordan Bowden picked up his second just over seven minutes into the game. Samford’s Brandon Austin didn’t make things any easier after hitting a trey to make it a 15-13 games several possessions later. Austin had scored eight of Samford’s 15 points to begin the game.
But Austin ran into some foul trouble himself, catching his second with a little over 11 minutes left in the first half. He had to take a seat on the bench and that keyed another run for the Vols.
A big dunk from Grant Williams put the Vols ahead by a one-point margin, 17-16. Tennessee continued to increase the lead, racking up an 8-0 run and increasing the lead to 21-16 before the Bulldogs’ Kevin Nolan ended the run with a big three-point shot.
Samford was able to pull ahead 28-21, but back-to-back treys by both Bowden and Bone cut the lead down to 28-27.
A third consecutive three-point shot from Schofield took the lead back, 30-28, and Tennessee went on a 16-0 run and led 37-28 before Deandre Thomas ended the run with a quick layup to make it a seven-point game, 37-30.
Both teams traded possessions, but Bone capped off a scintillating first-half performance with a buzzer-beating layup that helped push the Vols’ lead to 41-32 before halftime.
Bone finished the first half with 16 points on 7/10 shooting. That included a 2⁄3 mark from three and five assists on 18 minutes. Tennessee had a 4:1 assist to turnover ratio, but was outrebounded by the Bulldogs, 18-17.
The Vols shot 55% from the field and 62.5% from three-point range. Samford looked tired as the first half wore on, which would make it interesting to see how they’d hold up in the second half.
It didn’t get off to a good start for the Bulldogs. Yves Pons snagged an offensive rebound and Grant Williams hit a jumper to give Tennessee their largest lead of the game, 43-32.
Samford was able to battle back with an 11-5 run that was keyed by some Tennessee turnovers and brought the game within five points, 48-43. Would they be able to keep this energy up for the remainder of the game or would they fizzle out as time expired a la the first 20 minutes?
Pons was able to draw a charge on Sharkey, giving him his third foul with over 13 minutes to play.
But it didn’t affect the Bulldogs. They continued to battle back and forth with Tennessee, even though the lead never really went under eight points for the Vols.
After going back and forth on a few possessions, Bone finally came up with his first points of the second half. It was a double-dose of scoring as he hit back-to-back layups to match the biggest lead of the game, 61-49.
Tennessee was able to go another big run, this time it was 9-2, in order to build their biggest lead of the game, 66-51 with less than 8:00 to play.
The Vols were able to stretch the lead to 70-53 before a three-pointer from Robert Allen ended the 17-6 run. Tennessee had figured out Samford’s zone at this point and it looked like the Bulldogs were cooked.
That turned out to be the case. Bone capped off his excellent night with by grabbing a double-double with four minutes left to play.
The Vols led 78-58 and at this point there was no turning back.
Ruben Guerrero fouled out with around 2:40 to play. Without their big man, Samford stood no chance at a comeback.
Tennessee would go on to win, 83-70. Bone led the team with 24 points, but Schofield and Williams were able to contribute with 18 and 16, respectfully.
The Vols shot 57.9% from the field and finished with 52 points in the paint. They are now 9-1 on the season.
They will face Wake Forest (6-3) in Thompson-Boling on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12PM EST.