No. 18 Tennessee handled business once again on Wednesday evening against an LSU Tigers team who only had seven scholarship players available. James Daniel III led the way in scoring, coming off of the bench with 17 points as the Vols won 84-61.
Tennessee’s bench is no joke
Grant Williams went down in the first half with an injury and the Vols didn’t let off of the gas pedal. With Williams only logging nine minutes in the first half, he still ended up finishing with 10 points in the half, and the Vols led by double-digits.
Williams is the anchor of this team, but for the team’s main source of offense to go down and the team to continue rolling the way they did speaks volumes for Rick Barnes’ team.
Tennessee’s bench outscored the LSU bench 44-8 and although that can be skewered due to the Tigers’ suspensions, the Vols effort off of the bench can’t be questioned. LSU head coach Will Wade was well aware his team got outworked.
“They just have a lot of different guys, a lot of different pieces,” Wade said. “We got smashed in bench play, those guys outworked us.”
Barnes was glad to see his team come out on top, but believes Yves Pons, Chris Darrington and Jalen Johnson need to take advantage of their short amount of time on the court.
“I am disappointed with James. I wish he would have given one of those other guys a shot that hadn’t been playing,” Barnes said. “As a coach you’re never satisfied with any of them … when you cut it down (to the end of the game) you really want to see those guys make some plays for us.”
Young Vols learning to close games
Tennessee has taken big leads this season and blown them.The Vols led by nine points against No. 10 North Carolina at home and double-digits on the road against both Villanova and Arkansas.
In this game, the Vols led for over 38 minutes of and didn’t slip up at any point of the game. Down the stretch of conference play and especially into the SEC tournament, creating leads and keeping them will be critical.
Guard play on both ends is improving
At the beginning of the season, the Vols struggled to find a true point guard in late game stretches. Lamonte Turner proved to be the guy that could step up and take big shots, especially against Purdue, but since then, the Vols have struggled to find a guy to consistently take care of the ball on both ends.
Jordan Bone struggled recently, and when he did, James Daniel III stepped up and played big in the last several games. Bone finished tonight’s game with a strong 12 points and eight assists with zero turnovers. Daniel led the team in scoring, but had high praise for his teammates.
“I really feel as if it helps,” Daniel said. “Any guy feels like it could be their night. Today I thought Jalen (Johnson) did well … Bone, Lamonte, anyone can step up any given night.”
Not only did Bone perform well on the offensive side of the ball, but the guards as a whole played well on defense. Freshman sensation Tremont Waters is averaging 15 points per game this season for LSU, but was shut down for the entirety of the game against the Vols.
Waters, who scored only seven points on the night, struggled to find his shot. It was a team effort from the guards, with Bone, Daniel III and Turner all taking turns on the standout freshman.
If Tennessee is going to beat great teams in the SEC tournament, it will need Bone to play like he did tonight – a true two-way point guard.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics