The Alabama State Hornets entered Thompson Boling Arena as 30 point underdogs against Tennessee, but early on, they were unfazed by the more talented Volunteer squad. Helping Alabama State’s cause was the fact that the Volunteers couldn’t buy a bucket in the first 14 minutes of the game.
Tennessee started an icy 38 percent from the field, which included a 1-8 start from the three-point stripe. Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner and Yves Pons were getting good looks at the basket, but they weren’t falling early on.
The Hornets capitalized, despite a poor shooting percentage themselves. After 15 minutes, Alabama State had the Tennessee lead back down to three, 18-15.
Jordan Bowden pushed that lead back out to five out of a timeout, hitting a mid-range jumper and joining the 1,000 career point club in the process. Later in the game, Lamonte Turner would join Bowden in the same club.
In the final six minutes of the first half, the lid was removed from the rim for Tennessee. Bowden hit two triples while Turner added another to give the Vols some breathing room. John Fulkerson proved to be a mismatch for Alabama State down low, hitting 4-5 shots from the paint in the first half.
After a slow start, the Tennessee lead was pushed to 34-23 by halftime.
Out of the break, Tennessee took a more inside approach. Yves Pons and John Fulkerson found a couple of easy buckets, while Lamonte Turner continued to attack the basket.
Tennessee’s lead swelled to 20 midway through the second half as Pons drilled a three.
After that, Rick Barnes took the opportunity to get some of his bench players in the game. Davonte Gaines had already seen some run in the first half and Drew Pember got his chance in the second half. The true freshman made his official debut tonight after getting hurt at the end of the exhibition a few weeks ago.
Pember made a really nice play for a rebound, coming in from the three point line to snag it, then got fouled going back up with a shot. His first five points came from the free throw line tonight. He scored his first field goal with three minutes to play.
Reserve forward Zach Kent was inactive tonight. As the broadcast stated, Kent has decided to step away from the team indefinitely. More on that later.
Josiah James finished the game out running point for the Vols with Turner out of the game. The true freshman guard looked really good as a distributor, ending the night with five assists. More impressively for James, he came down with 13 rebounds on the night.
So while this one wasn’t as cleanly started as Rick Barnes wanted, Tennessee found their way around the 15 minute mark and never looked back.
The Vols will be back in action against Chattanooga next Monday night.
Bowden: 16 points (3-7 from three)
Turner: 13 points, 3 reb, 6 ast
Pons: 11 points, 5 reb, 3 blocks
Fulkerson: 10 points, 4 reb
James: 3 points, 13 reb, 5 ast
Pember: 8 points, 5 reb
Gaines: 4 points, 6 reb
Nkamhoua: 8 points, 5 reb