Rick Barnes and No. 15 Tennessee went into Rupp Arena on Tuesday night and knock off No. 24 Kentucky for the first time in 19 years on Tuesday evening. Tennessee basketball has been a rollercoaster ride in Barnes’ first couple of seasons, but it seems he has the team on track. Many would even say he’s ahead of schedule.
Here is what to take away from Tuesday’s win over the Wildcats.
Lamonté Turner is the go-to guy down the stretch
Turner was the reason Tennessee upended No. 3 Purdue earlier in the season, and he put the dagger in the Wildcats with only seconds remaining on the clock in Tuesday’s win over Kentucky.
Turner finished the game with 16 points and drilled four 3-pointers on his way to logging 31 minutes on the night. The redshirt-sophomore has now scored 15 or more points off of the bench seven times and has scored 20 or more points four times this season.
The Vols have needed a consistent closer and Turner has become that down this crucial stretch in conference play.
The Vols are back
The stat that will be thrown around until Tennessee plays Kentucky next season is that the Vols swept the Wildcats for the first time in 19 years.
Rick Barnes has Tennessee back in national contention in only his third year with the program, and Knoxville owes him a big pat on the back.
Tennessee, who has been knocked for its low recruiting rankings, has itself a coach that can not only bring quality and underrated players to campus, but can develop those players into some of the best players and teammates in the SEC.
Tennessee is being talked about for its chances of grabbing a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament – something that has never happened in Knoxville. Tennessee owes that solely to Barnes.
Bench play the deepest in the conference
Tennessee has seven players who log at least six points per game. Out of those seven players, all of them average over 20 minutes of game play per contest.
The Vols have not only the deepest roster in the conference, but the deepest bench as well. This is a team that has grown together tremendously since a tough 0-2 start to conference play in January.
This team relied heavily on Grant Williams throughout its tough stretches, but the depth on the roster has finally caught up to where the team wants to go – whether that is due to the development of those players by Barnes, or the unselfishness of the players, this will be a tough team to beat down the stretch if it can continue to close out games with key role players playing like they did tonight.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics