In a sloppy, yet dominant performance, Tennessee defeated Slippery Rock 83-48 in its lone exhibition game of the 2016-2017 season.
The Vols broke the game open with a 12-0 run midway through the first half and never looked back.
Senior Robert Hubbs III sparked the run with eight points in two minutes, and led the team in scoring with 14 points. Freshmen Jordan Bone (11 points) and John Fulkerson (10 points) joined Hubbs as the only Tennessee players that scored in double figures.
Tennessee had a rather efficient night, shooting 47 percent from the field (29-for-62) and 35 percent from three-point range (7-for-20), but coach Rick Barnes wanted to see more aggression from his team.
“I took players out tonight for not shooting the ball,” Barnes said. “Even when you miss them, you still have to take the shot.”
Fortunately for Barnes, the Vols were beneficiaries of a multitude of turnovers from their opponent. The rock was indeed “slippery” for the visiting team, as Slippery Rock turned the ball over 30 times, turning into 44 points for the Vols.
“We want to be quick. We want to be sharp,” Barnes said of the team’s play in transition. “We just don’t want to be in a hurry.”
Throughout the preseason, the overwhelming youth of this Tennessee team has been well documented. In the exhibition matchup, eight players made their collegiate basketball debuts and accounted for 43 of the Vols’ 83 points.
At the point guard position, true freshman Bone got the start and barely edged redshirt freshman Lamonte Turner in minutes played with 14. Turner, who was with the team last season but was ruled academically ineligible, played 13 minutes and hit two three-pointers for six points.
However, both freshman guards failed to register a single assist. Instead, fellow freshmen Grant Williams and Kwe Parker lead the team in assists with four apiece.
In what was the most surprising performance of the night, true freshman John Fulkerson finished with 10 points on five dunks.
“He took to heart what I told him,” Barnes said. Earlier in the preseason, Barnes told Fulkerson he was the team’s “fifth post player.”
However, Barnes was not surprised by the freshman’s performance, and neither was Fulkerson.
“John is a guy who can run the floor,” Barnes praised. “He’s playing harder than he’s ever played.”
On his first game at the collegiate level, Fulkerson added “I was a little nervous, but that’s what an exhibition game is for.” And on if he was counting his dunks, Fulkerson responded “No, I am just playing hard.”
In what was an overall successful exhibition game for Tennessee, the team still struggled with its presence down low. Despite outplaying Slippery Rock, the Vols were outrebounded 44-35. Specifically, Tennessee struggled with taking away its opponents’ missed shots, giving second chance opportunities on 20 offensive rebounds.
An exhibition game is for addressing and fine-tuning weaknesses, but when asked if Barnes had figured anything out in this game, he simply stated, “No, we’re too young.”
All 15 players on the roster saw the court in the exhibition game.12 different players saw double-digit minutes. Yet still, Barnes has not decided on a set starting lineup, and it doesn’t appear one will be set anytime soon.
“I wouldn’t be concerned with who starts,” Barnes said, “but who finishes the game.”
The Vols tip off the regular season next Friday, Nov. 11, against Chattanooga at Thompson-Boling Arena at 7 p.m. ET.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Dalton, a firm believer that sporting events are best spent on Twitter, is an Assistant Sports Editor for TNJN and a sophomore studying Journalism at the University of Tennessee. Two of his favorite pastimes include beating his roommates at 2k and remaining in awe of the amount of stories fellow editor David Bradford writes. Twitter: @dk_writes