Tennessee dropped its season opener in an ugly performance to Chattanooga, 82-69 on Friday. Despite leading early on, the Vols surrendered the advantage with 6:12 left in the first half during a 13-4 Chattanooga run, a stretch that included five Tennessee turnovers. From there, they never reclaimed the lead.
While Robert Hubbs III and Lamonte Turner both scored in double figures, they struggled shooting from the field, going a combined 6-for-23. However, point guard Jordan Bone showed flashes of brilliance in his first career game. Bone scored a game-high 21 points, shooting 8-of-14 from the field in 31 minutes for the Vols. His night got off to a quick start as well, scoring the team’s first six points.
“You see, he (Bone) is extremely quick, and we wanted him to keep attacking,” said coach Rick Barnes.
While he was the only Tennessee player to hit a three-pointer, Bone was also the only Vol to shoot over 40 percent on the evening. And although he only tallied one assist, the Vols had just four assists as a team, a nod to their poor shooting performance.
Barnes was impressed with Bone, but added he knew he’d make some freshman mistakes.
“He had gotten in that mode where he didn’t understand where to go (on offense),” said Barnes. “He’s not quite there yet, but he’ll learn.”
Tennessee’s initial sets in the half court didn’t yield any results, and their offense stagnated with too many guys standing around several times. There were occasions when even Bone dribbled the ball for 15 to 20 seconds, hopelessly looking to initiate offense.
Barnes added that the freshman’s primary focus needs to be getting other players involved.
“He can shoot the ball, but he needs to pride himself in assist-to-turnover,” Barnes said. “But more than anything, he needs to pride himself on running the team.”
Ultimately, both Bone and Tennessee are extremely young and inexperienced. Both will benefit from their front-loaded schedule, playing against opponents who are not only talented, but also play strong team basketball. It’s a small sample size, but Bone has shown enough to get fans excited for the prospect of the future. If he can continue to score effectively while also learning to create for his teammates, the Vols can compete in Maui.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics