There were a couple of key differences in matchup one and two with Tennessee and Kentucky. The main ones were the play of Jordan Bone and Grant Williams. The two Tennessee stars powered the Vols to a huge victory over the fourth ranked Wildcats, keeping Tennessee alive for a regular season SEC title.
Jordan Bone took some heat from Rick Barnes after the first loss to Kentucky. His 19 points and six assist weren’t bad on paper, but the junior point guard failed to push the pace on that night. His stat line was propped up by some garbage time three pointers as the Vols trailed by 20. In the second game, however, Bone was the best player on the floor.
He poured in 27 points on 11-15 shooting. He ended up 5-5 from three-point range, but more importantly, Bone didn’t register a single turnover. Unlike the first matchup, Bone was the aggressor Tennessee needed.
“You can just tell that he did some things on his own today when he called some things and a real feel for their teammates,” Barnes said of Bone after the game. “He did a good job from our stand point on just orchestrating the game.”
Bone pushed the offense, created shots and really opened up the offense for his teammates. It didn’t hurt that he was absolutely dialed in from long range, even making a couple of contested shots late in the shot clock.
“He logged a lot of minutes in December and I think it helped him,” Barnes said. “He is playing more than ten minutes a game than he was a year ago, but I do think those minutes were really valuable to him. Early in December, I thought he got more and more confident and started to understand more and more what a point guard had to do.”
We’ve talked about it a lot this year. Bone’s transition from a guy who didn’t really seem to know what was happening to a total floor general has been spectacular. It’s given the Vols a new dimension and it’s why they’ve got a shot to cut down some nets over the next several weeks.