Through the years, Jordan Bowden has almost teased Tennessee fans with his flashes of brilliance. The guard out of Knoxville has gotten hot in plenty of spurts before, showing off his deadeye shooting and explosive athletic ability.
Problem is, we have yet to see that ability consistently come out of Bowden. But this year as a senior, that might be beginning to change.
In Tennessee’s second game of the season, Murray State came out and punched the Volunteers in the mouth. The Racers built a 12 point lead before halftime and the Tennessee offense was stagnant. Lamonte Turner didn’t have it shooting-wise, shifting pressure to Bowden for the second half.
When Tennessee had to have it, Bowden absolutely delivered.
The senior shooter was white hot in the second half, pouring in 26 points and shooting 6-8 from long range. It was a career high for Bowden, who totally flipped the script of a game that had seemed to get away from Tennessee.
“(Bowden) is a guy that is going to be one guy on the team that is going to take some tough shots at times,” Rick Barnes said after the game. “He is capable of doing it. I referred to him yesterday, doing this little warm-up drill that we call short shooting to get shots up quick. If you watch him do it, he bounces up.”
That drill paid dividends for Tennessee on Tuesday night. Bowden was outstanding and confident, getting his shot up both on the move and through good defense. It didn’t matter. The offense ran through him — everyone watching knew that. But Bowden still came through and made some big shots, which is something he’s going to have to do night in and night out for the Volunteers this year.
“Everybody is going to game plan for (Bowden), and what was most impressive in the second half with Lamonte and Jordan Bowden was they guarded the other team’s best two players, and they did a terrific job,” Barnes said. “Those guys are going to be game planned for, we know that, but they’ve been around and they’ve seen it now, and they’ll have to deal with it. Both of them played a really well-balanced game because they were both really good defensively for the most part.”
Bowden’s offensive explosion isn’t anything new for Tennessee. There was a stretch of games last year where he turned it on and looked like another primary option alongside of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. It’s just been the consistency that’s plagued him to this point in his career.
With Williams and Schofield out of town now, it’s up to Jordan to keep his foot on the gas. You’re not going to get 26 points and 75 percent three-point shooting out of him every night, we all know that. He just can’t disappear on Tennessee like he did at times last season. This roster simply can’t afford that.
Tennessee needs this confident, aggressive Bowden to show up every single night, especially in the early part of the season against a tough non-conference schedule. As the season goes on, maybe some pressure will come off as Josiah James, Jalen Johnson and others develop and get more comfortable.
But right now? Tennessee needs Jordan Bowden firing on all cylinders. Let’s see if he can back it up against No. 20 Washington on Saturday afternoon.