It’s always good to finish out strong. For the Tennessee Volunteers, you can’t finish much stronger than they just did.
Tennessee routed the visiting Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles to the tune of a 96-53 defeat in Knoxville on Saturday. It was the final game of the 2018 calendar year. Now, the Vols will look to the new year as SEC play begins in a week.
The Vols got off to a quick start and led 5-0 within the first 1:10 of the game. Tech battled back to make it 5-4, but Tennessee was able to pull away with 6-0 run that started with a sick dunk from Grant Williams as he cleaned up a Jordan Bowden miss.
Courtney Alexander II ended the run with a nice dunk of his own, but all that did was incite the third-best team in the country to lock down and focus.
A respectable 11-6 score with a little over 14:10 in the first half soon flipped to a 23-8 deficit with 12:20 to play.
That’s right, the Vols went on a 12-2 run in just a litte less than two minutes. Jordan Bone was the catalyst to the run, scoring five points. Admiral Schofield chipped in with a three of this own and Tennessee looked to be firing on all cylinders early.
The onslaught continued a few minutes later as Bowden found Knoxville’s most infamous frenchman in Yves Pons for a sick alley-oop to make it a 31-10. Tech’s Garret Golday responded with a beautiful three and Micaiah Henry hit a quick jumper soon after, but Pons followed up the show with another dunk just a couple of possessions later to keep the train rolling, 33-15.
Both Williams and Schofield bought some real estate in Lob City after Pons and Tennessee was dominating the Golden Eagles on every square inch of hardwood. The Vols continued to clamp down on defense and it all culminated with a dunk from John Fulkerson that was immediately followed up by a steal and another dunk to push the score to 47-20.
The rout was officially on and there was still 2:51 left to go in the first half. Tech finished off the first half on a layup with just seconds to go to make it 51-33 after the first 20 minutes.
There didn’t seem to be any apparent answers. Everything was working for the Vols.
74.2%, 66.7%, 75%. That was Tennessee’s overall field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and percentage from the free throw line. Sure, 75% is underwhelming, but consider the fact that they missed just one free throw - 3/4 - and that number is much friendlier.
Williams led the Vols with 18 points and Alexander II led the Golden Eagles with seven. 40 of Tennessee’s 51 points came in the paint and the Volunteer defense forced seven turnovers - almost twice as many made three-pointers (4) by Tech.
Schofield opened the first half with a three from the top of the key to make it 54-33 before Tech answered right back with a make of their own.
But the momentum couldn’t swing in Tech’s favor. Tennessee continued to stretch their lead as the game wore on, reaching 64-41 before the Vols’ Fulkerson was intentionally fouled by Tech’s Golday.
Fulkerson couldn’t convert all of his attempts, but Bowden was able to draw a foul and the Vols had more chances at some free points. The help was much appreciated as Tennessee continued to march toward their largest lead of the game.
They got close as the score hit 71-45 with around 13:30 left to play, but Tech’s Hunter Vick drained a three to cut the lead to 71-48.
Pons went hat-trick with the oops, recording his third of the game and Schofield followed up with a dunk of his own right after as the Vols reached a 30-point lead, 79-49 with 9:02 left in the game.
The Golden Eagles were a (+33) underdog coming into the game, so now the biggest question was simply whether or not they would cover the spread.
Before Tech could even mutter the word “uncle”, the Vols were up 87-49 with 6:15 to play thanks in part to a 26-8 run. Tennessee had scored 14 straight and were nothing short of dominant while trying to put their opponent away for good.
On second thought, dominant wasn’t a strong enough word. The Vols didn’t allow a single point during the 32-8 run that pushed the lead to 93-49. Tennessee didn’t allow a made field goal for nearly 12 minutes in the second half.
Williams and Schofield missed just two shots between them. Bone finished with 10 assists. Kyle Alexander led the team in blocks.
It was the perfect demonstration of this team’s identity and unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, they caught the brunt of it.
Tennessee is now 11-1 on the season and will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in Thompson-Boling Arena next weekend. Tip-off is set for 3:30PM EST on January 5, 2019.