In a year that was supposed to be his, Tennessee’s senior guard Jordan Bowden has fallen ice cold — for virtually the entire season. Finally out from under Grant Williams, Jordan Bone and Admiral Schofield, Bowden was finally going to get a chance to show that he could be a primary scorer. That chance was amplified even more when Lamonte Turner went down with a shoulder injury.
But Bowden hasn’t capitalized. He’s struggled shooting over the last month after getting off to a solid start to open the year. In fact, since the loss to Florida State, Bowden is just 11-59 from three point range. That’s good for 18 percent.
On Saturday afternoon, it may have bottomed out. He shot 1-12 from three and 1-17 from the field. All for a grand total of six points.
Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden shot 1-for-17 from the field. Per @ESPNStatsInfo, he is the first SEC player over the last 25 seasons to take at least 17 shots and make one or less field goals.— Brandon Zimmerman (@BZSEC) January 11, 2020
Fortunately, Tennessee was playing South Carolina, which was going through plenty of offensive issues themselves. After the game, Rick Barnes voiced some frustrations on Bowden.
“If Jordan Bowden is not playing, we’re not going to leave him out there,” Barnes said after the game. “We’re going to give other guys a chance to miss some of those shots too.”
Barnes turned to Drew Pember in crunch time, and the freshman delivered with some big minutes, adding five points. John Fulkerson saved the day in the closing minutes, scoring tough buckets and coming away with a key block. Santiago Vescovi and Josiah James were the main sparks of offense, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively.
The identity of this team is beginning to shift, and Barnes’ comments today seem to back that up. So what do you do with Bowden now? Cut his minutes? If so, in favor of who? Can you continue to let him shoot through this slump?
“You’ll have to ask him,” Barnes said when asked what exactly was wrong with Bowden. “The last game I don’t think he pressed at all. Today he looked like he was pressing again.”
It’s an interesting situation, because anyone that’s watched Tennessee play over the last three years knows that Bowden is capable. And it’s also not like Barnes has a real good option sitting on the bench. Jalen Johnson has shown a little something this past week, but he’s also been inconsistent this year and for the better part of his career.
The harsh truth is this — Tennessee needs Bowden. They need these shots to fall because they don’t have a lot of pure scorers on the roster. He’s pretty clearly been told to shoot out of this slump, it just hasn’t happened yet. For a guy that has struggled with confidence, taking that green light away from him might be a risky proposition.
But Barnes needs to find a way to shock him back into shape. Maybe it’s trying him off the bench in the next few games, maybe it is just simply cutting his minutes back a touch.
On a roster that is lacking playmakers, it’s obvious that Tennessee and Jordan Bowden need each other. However, it’s probably time for Barnes to take a new approach with his senior guard.