Down seven points in the opening moments of the second half, Tennessee sat at a crossroads. The Vols — once ranked No. 1 — had dropped road contests to LSU and Kentucky and suddenly found themselves just looking for a way to stop the bleeding. Making matters more pressing, they knew Kentucky was coming to Knoxville on Saturday, which made this one against Ole Miss nearly a must.
With seemingly nothing working offensively or defensively, Tennessee was in dire need of a simple spark. It was an average night from Admiral Schofield, while Grant Williams was dealing with too much defensive attention for much of the night. Jordan Bone had done his part to keep the Vols alive, but he needed help.
Once again, it was a matter of Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden giving Tennessee virtually nothing offensively. Thankfully to open the second half, Turner changed that. The junior guard hit back to back mid range jumpers, getting in a rhythm. On the very next possession, Turner stepped back and drilled a three. That shot gave Tennessee a lead at 44-41, totally changing the feel of the game.
Turner wasn’t done either, he continued to attack the paint, ending up with 17 points against the Rebels. It was an efficient night from the floor for Lamonte, who went 8-12 and 1-4 from three-point range. It was a big development for Tennessee, who needs these secondary options consistently contributing.
The other piece that Tennessee needs back rolling is Jordan Bowden, who was a non-factor until the end of the game last night. To be fair to Bowden, he saw a few of his shots do everything but drop on Wednesday night. But with 18 seconds left, Bowden made a shot most people will forget — a simple mid-range jumper that the Vols had to have. Bowden took one step inside the three-point line and drilled a jumper to bring Tennessee to within one point with 18 seconds left.
That shot, as it turns out, kept the door open long enough for Grant Williams to crash through and steal this one from Ole Miss.
“We’re sitting there, really, and we laughed one time,” Rick Barnes said after the win of Bowden. “Sooner or later, something has to go in. The fact that he drove in there, that was a big basket. I thought it was big that he wasn’t afraid to take it. That was the biggest part of it. He was trying to drive and put some pressure on them, try to get fouled, but it was a big play.”
Barnes said it, and I agree with it — it was big that Bowden wasn’t afraid of that shot. He had every reason to be after how his night had gone to that point. Maybe seeing that go through the net was what he needed to get back going.
If Tennessee is going to win big in the next month, Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner have to be big reasons why. We saw Turner come alive last night, now Tennessee needs Bowden to do the same on Saturday.