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Jordan Bone is taking Tennessee to the next level

His improvement has a lot to do with why Tennessee is playing like they are.

NCAA Basketball: Samford at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

For a couple of years, we’ve heard all about Jordan Bone’s potential. We’ve seen it in spurts, but the junior point guard has taken a backseat to Tennessee stars Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams, for the most part. On a rare night where neither Williams or Schofield were spectacular, Bone was against Samford.

“Obviously we were trying to go inside early,” Barnes said after the game. “(Bone) attacked the elbows and got to the rim. He really played well tonight.”

Bone logged 37 minutes with Lamonte Turner once again on the sidelines. He scored 24 points and added 11 assists against the Bulldogs. It was a career high in points for Bone, who shot 11-16 from the field.

“We sat down yesterday for a while and talked about a lot of different things,” Barnes said. “We went back and reviewed some games and really tried to help him. He really wants to be a good player, but I think it gets back to him understanding just how talented he is and where he’s most effective. I thought he did a great job of that tonight.”

Bone has emerged as the third offensive option for this team, something they badly needed to happen. Opponents can hone in on Grant and Admiral, but when Bone is on this team is just an entirely different offensive animal. We wrote over the summer than Bone’s play would be the key to Tennessee taking the next step as a program. To this point, he’s really stepped up.

It hasn’t been without some bumps in the road though. Following a five turnover performance against Memphis, Barnes said he sat Bone down to get him back on track.

“Mostly about what his strengths really are,” Barnes said. “What he’s capable of doing every night and what he can control. That was it. Understanding where he’s most effective and trying to play to those areas.”

Outside of the five turnovers against Memphis and a 2-13 shooting performance against Gonzaga, Bone has been fairly consistent this year. He’s third on the team in average points per game at 13.7 and leads the team in assists with over six per game. That number is up from 3.5 last season. It’s probably a little inflated due to the injury to Lamonte Turner’s injury, but still that’s some big time development. It’s probably the primary reason why Tennessee is on a different level this year.

If Bone can keep this pace up, it’s hard to imagine Tennessee not making a deep run in March.