Tennessee lost on Friday night to Florida State while VCU lost to Purdue, setting up a pretty competitive third place game in the Emerald Coast Classic.
The nation’s 17th and 20th ranked teams looked very even early on. Tennessee started much better than they did during Friday’s contest, keeping pace with a talented VCU squad. After ten minutes of play, the score was even at 20.
That’s when the first real break of the game came. Jalen Johnson nailed a contested three, then the Vols rattled off three more buckets in the paint, extending an early lead to 29-21. John Fulkerson was off to a hot start, hitting 4-5 shots for eight quick points.
Tennessee took control of the half from there, shooting 50 percent against VCU’s 24 in the first half. The Volunteers’ lights out defense from Friday night carried over in the first period of play, with a little better action offensively.
Another factor? Tennessee was dominant on the boards, doubling up the Rams 26-13 in the rebounding category. The Vols took a 37-28 lead into halftime.
Tennessee kept the offense rolling to open the second half. Lamonte Turner found Fulkerson for another easy two, then Yves Pons hit a three to push the lead back to ten.
But VCU would make a run, thanks to Tennessee catching the turnover bug again. Back to back turnovers led to transition buckets for the Rams, who were able to cut the Vols’ lead back to just four with 15 minutes to play.
Tennessee would maintain that small advantage over the next few minutes, then extend it on a three pointer from Turner. Jordan Bowden started to assert himself a bit more, hitting two from the free throw stripe, then hitting from mid-range.
With ten minutes to play, Tennessee held a 53-46 lead.
But VCU fought back, getting a three pointer of their own from Issac Vann, then turnover Lamonte Turner over once again. KeShawn Curry got to the rim to make it a two point game.
Moments later, Marcus Santos-Silva would tie the game for VCU. On the next possession, Curry hit a deep two to give the Rams a two point lead.
Suddenly, Tennessee felt like they were in trouble. The offense had vanished, and they had just 6:26 to figure things out.
Tennessee was able to answer quickly though. Josiah James hit a corner three to give the Vols the lead right back at 59-58. Back and forth we went as Santos-Silva was fouled and connected on two free throws to reclaim the VCU lead. The two sides traded buckets over the next few possessions as the lead continued to go back and forth.
VCU blinked first. Tennessee got a stop and Jordan Bowden was fouled at the other end. The senior guard hit two, pushing the lead to 65-62 with under three minutes to play. The Vols could get a stop though, giving up two buckets on the next two possessions. Lamonte Turner made a tough runner in the paint to keep the Tennessee lead at 67-66 with 1:30 to play.
Pons missed a three from the corner, opening the door for VCU to take the lead. But Tennessee stuffed the paint, forcing an empty possession from the Rams. A timeout set the table once again, with Tennessee clinging to a 67-66 lead with 45 seconds remaining.
The Vols needed a bucket of any form — and they didn’t get one. Fulkerson missed on a hook shot, once again opening the door for VCU. But the Rams couldn’t convert at the basket, and Fulkerson pulled down a massive rebound.
Fulky was fouled, then hit two huge free throws at the other end. Needing a three with seconds left — VCU got one. De’Riante Jenkins nailed a three with four seconds left to tie the game at 69.
When Tennessee needs a big shot, they turn to senior guard Lamonte Turner. He didn’t disappoint with 1.7 seconds left. Turner hit a three for Tennessee as the buzzer sounded, finally burying VCU for good.
Here’s a look at the shot.
Lamonte Turner wins it for the Vols. pic.twitter.com/Lgubq5HPT1— Mike Wilson (@ByMikeWilson) November 30, 2019
It was Turner’s 10th, 11th and 12th points of the game, but he only needed one. Tennessee survived a game that they controlled for much of the afternoon, 72-69.
Turner: 12 pts, 5 reb, 7 ast
Bowden: 14 pts, 6 reb
Pons: 9 pts, 4 reb
Fulkerson: 17 pts, 7 reb
James: 7 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast