Tennessee didn’t have too many issues with the Islanders of Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Sunday afternoon in Knoxville. After a bit of a sloppy start, the Vols were in control of this one, as expected. It was another valuable tune-up game, just one week before they head to Phoenix to take on top ranked Gonzaga.
Sunday was a spot for Rick Barnes to experiment. Something he’s been playing around with is his starting five, which featured Yves Pons in place of Jordan Bowden for the second consecutive game. Pons seems to respond to his opportunity to start against Eastern Kentucky, but Sunday was a different story.
Pons didn’t make an impact against the Islanders, taking only two shots and was unable to snare a single rebound. Bowden on the other hand, put together one of the best efforts we’ve seen from him in some time.
“I thought he played his best game this year in terms of being active and moving the ball and playing with confidence,” Barnes said of Bowden. “I just thought he had it going in terms of being relaxed, he wasn’t too uptight, and he was letting it come to him.”
Bowden finished the game with 14 points, going 4-6 from the field. He went 1-2 from three point range and finished several played strong at the rim. He looked like the Bowden of old, which is someone that this program has missed so far this year.
“Sometimes it does help players to have a chance to see how the game unfolds and he was a difference tonight,” Barnes said. “Our very first play, Kyle Alexander doesn’t execute and turns the ball over. Absolutely no reason. Next time down the floor, Yves Pons turns it over. No reason. So we are not going to let it fester.
“We have been talking about for a week now how important every possession is and for us to go out and not be engaged like that, you have to go to your bench and then hope you have somebody there to put in the game that can make that. I thought Bowden did that for us tonight.”
Bowden is averaging 6.8 points per game, which is down from his 9.1 from last season. He was never going to be a primary option for this team, but he’s a talented guy that clearly started the season in a funk.
Barnes has a way of getting guys out of those funks. He’s not shy about it either. He’ll tell you all about it, then tell the media all about it. You’ve seen him do it with Grant Williams and Lamonte Turner more than once. Now it’s Bowden’s turn to respond. To his credit, it looks like he began to come out of it today.
Tennessee is going to need that effort from Bowden next week against Gonzaga. Mark Few knows what’s coming and you can bet he’s going to key in on Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. It’s going to take a guy like Bowden or Jordan Bone to step up and be that consistent third or fourth option offensively.