No. 18 Tennessee (16-5, 6-3 SEC) defeated LSU in Knoxville by a score of 84-61 on Wednesday night. Senior James Daniel III led the Volunteers to victory, scoring 17 points off the bench with five 3-pointers made on the night.
Three other Tennessee players reached double-digit points, including guard Jordan Bone, who scored 12. Bone finished with seven assists and zero turnovers.
“When you go to the bench that’s where you want your energy to come from,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said following the win.
Tennessee did just that as they outscored the Tigers 44-8 in bench points. Barnes and Tennessee took full advantage of the Tigers depth problems, especially late in the second half.
The game became a battle of the big men early, as the LSU duo of Duop Reath and Aaron Epps accounted for all eight of the Tigers points after five minutes of play. In fact, only one other player took a shot during that span.
Despite the Vols leading scorer – Grant Williams – going out early with an injury, Tennessee got hot from 3-point range to jump out to an early 17-8 lead through eight minutes of play.
The Volunteers held the Tigers scoreless for over four minutes, as Bone, Daniel and Jalen Johnson hits 3-pointers to go up big. Tennessee’s smothering defense finally gave up a 3-pointer from Epps at the 10:10 mark to end the Tigers drought. Reath then cut the deficit to 19-14 with a pair of free throws.
Tennessee stayed hot from beyond-the-arc, as Reath and Epps continued to have all of LSU’s points until the eight-minute mark. By contrast, Tennessee had eight different players score through the first 12 minutes of the game.
Williams subbed back in with over seven minutes remaining in the first half and quickly got a pair of baskets to put the Vols up nine points with five minutes to play. Tennessee broke past the double-digit lead after Admiral Schofield hit a 3-pointer and assisted Williams for a layup to put the Vols up 37-25 with under four minutes remaining in the first half.
The orange-and-white held LSU to just 41 percent shooting from the field and 22 percent shooting from 3-point range as they led 42-31 at halftime. Williams led Tennessee at the half with 10 points despite missing over five minutes.
The Vols had 17 bench points to the Tigers two bench points in the first half. Lack of depth became problematic for LSU following the suspension of four players on Monday.
“It’s very hard because they have so many different players. They always have consistency from Grant Williams. They have a lot of different pieces,” LSU head coach Will Wade said following the game.
Bone continued to have the hot-hand for Tennessee after the half, as he scored a quick four points within the first four minutes of the second half. However, the Tigers managed to linger around as they had several players get involved with early in the second half. LSU finally cut it back to a 53-47 Vols lead after a layup from Daryl Edwards with under 12 minutes left to play.
“We got up and certain guys weren’t breaking out of the offense,” Barnes said.
Tennessee looked frazzled as it committed eight turnovers to start the second half and went cold from 3-point range. The Volunteers blew it back open to a 12-point lead after a 3-pointer from Daniel and a huge slam from Derrick Walker with nine minutes to play. Daniel hit his fourth 3-pointer with over five minutes remaining to put Tennessee up 18 points.
Lamonte Turner’s jump shot with over three minutes remaining put the Vols up 20 points and sealed the Tigers fate. Despite LSU cutting the lead to just six points, Tennessee finally showed its ability to put away teams in the second half. The Vols finished shooting 54 percent from the field and 48 percent from three, while the Tigers shot just 39 percent.
“I just know that we can get better,” Barnes said. “There’s a lot of basketball left to play, but now I’ve got to start to talk about being more mature.”
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics