No. 6 Tennessee defeated Lenoir-Rhyne 86-41 on Tuesday in its first regular season home game this season.
Jordan Bone notched 18 points on the night, while Kyle Alexander finished shortly behind Bone with a career-high 16 points and four blocks.
The Canadian big man served a vital role in the post last year, and after Tuesday’s showing, it appears this season will go in similar fashion.
Vols head coach Rick Barnes took notice.
“He’s a better player,” Barnes said of Alexander. “When I look at our team, he’s a physically different player.”
Alexander’s game wasn’t the only one that seemed different, though.
Within the first few minutes, Yves Pons checked in from off the bench. His impact was immediate, as an electrifying dunk with 13:28 left in the first half sent the arena into a frenzy.
Pons wasn’t done yet, though, as he finished the night with seven points and three blocks. He and John Fulkerson combined for 13 points in what is usually a 10-man rotation for Barnes, but that exchange was trimmed to eight on Tuesday because of the loss of Lamonté Turner and Jalen Johnson for tthe night.
“I thought our rotational guys were really, really good,” Barnes said. “I thought Yves Pons and John Fulkerson did a lot of really good things.”
Barnes also noted that running through a pressurized eight-player rotation proved “difficult at times.”
However, Tennessee’s head coach- who faced his alma mater in Lenoir-Rhyne- continued in his emphasis that the Vols’ bench still provided enough life to spark a 20-point halftime lead, as well as a 19-0 run after the break.
“We haven’t played a second half in any of our scrimmages or exhibitions, but I think those rotational guys were key to it,” Barnes said.
That run constricted the Bears’ offense, as Lenoir-Rhyne proved unable to score for the first eight minutes of the second half.
The Bears finally got their second-half offense rolling at 11:13 mark, but by that point, the damage had already been done.
The Vols’ defense had already proved too much for a suffocated Lenoir-Rhyne offense to handle, and it will look to continue that streak on Friday.
Tennessee is slated to take on Louisiana-Lafayette at home on Nov. 9. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET, and the game can be seen on the SEC Network+.
Featured image courtesy of Hannah Roberson.
Edited by Jake Nichols.