Daniel III leaves Vols with experience, new attitude

Hampton, Virginia native James Daniel III leaves Tennessee with a better attitude and improved skill. Daniel improved both his play and his outlook after Vols Head Coach Rick Barnes brought him in last summer as a grad-transfer. Daniel thanked Barnes and the program for his time on Rocky Top in an Instagram post Monday.

Daniel performed tremendously off the bench for the orange-and-white all season. With a season-high of 17 points, he had to change his play style after leading the NCAA in scoring (27 points per game) at Howard in 2016.

Averaging a solid 5.6 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game off the bench this year, Daniel remained consistent for Tennessee.

The 2016 Volunteers team proved to be much deeper than what Tennessee faithful expected in previous seasons under Barnes. Daniel typically served as the second guard off Barnes’ bench behind sophomore SEC-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner.

Barnes reached into his bench for Daniel’s stability. Daniel brought crisp passing and the ability to lock up opposing guards. He recorded 10 assists in multiple games and recorded 28 steals on the year.

Daniel also made 37 percent of his 3-pointers after hitting nearly 50 shots from beyond-the-arc in the 2017-18 season. Barnes looked to him to play about half each game. Daniel averaged around 20 minutes per contest.

With plenty talent, Daniel fought and scrapped for minutes against starters Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden. Daniel also competed for play time with Turner, who had a career year.

As much as Daniel did this season for the Tennessee, the most important legacy he leaves in Knoxville is a culture change for this young Vols roster. His motto, “turn me up,” has become a popular slogan around Knoxville. Players, fans and even coaches caught on to the team’s mantra.

Tennessee will have an extremely young team going forward. Three of the five starters are sophomores and the other two starters are juniors. With Daniel’s absence, Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander will be the only seniors with significant playing time on the roster next year unless Barnes manages to pick up another graduate transfer.

Daniel entered as a player from Howard with expertise in scoring, but he leaves Knoxville as a player who grew into a solid all-around teammate. Barnes and the Volunteers will miss his presence in 2019.

Written by Caleb Souders 

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

No. 18 Tennessee beats LSU to win fourth straight

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

No. 21 Tennessee looks to get back on track against South Carolina

No. 21 ranked Tennessee (12-5, 3-3 SEC) will travel to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-6, 3-3 SEC) at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2 Saturday night. Head coach Frank Martin and the Gamecocks swept the Volunteers last season, including an 82-55 win on Feb. 25.

However, this year’s contest is much more evenly matched. Especially now that Tennessee forward Grant Williams has molded himself into a solid basketball player, and South Carolina no longer has Sindarius Thornwell. Each team is coming off vastly different performances in their previous games leading up to this matchup.

The Gamecocks are fresh off a convincing 76-68 win over the No. 18 ranked Kentucky Wildcats at home on Tuesday. South Carolina made the Wildcats freshmen look downright weak, as they forced 16 turnovers and held Kentucky to nine percent shooting from 3-point range. The Gamecocks also recorded 16 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the Wildcats 40-35 on the boards.

Turnovers were the difference maker for South Carolina as it shot just 38-percent from the field and 22-percent from beyond-the-arc. Junior forward Chris Silva was also a major difference maker, shooting 9-of-17 from the floor for a career-high 27 points and eight rebounds.

The only other Gamecocks players with double-digit points in the win were forward Maik Kotsar and senior Frank Booker, who scored 18 points off the bench. Silva (14.9) and Booker (11.3) are the only two South Carolina players who average over 10 points-per-game. This is majorly due to the fact that the Gamecocks are primarily known for their defensive play.

The Vols fell to the Missouri Tigers 59-55 in their last game after they failed to close out yet another game. Tennessee was able to cut the deficit to just one point with over 1:30 left, but were unable to complete the comeback on Tuesday. This was primarily due to the Tigers ability to shut down the Volunteers guards, as Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden combined for just three points on the night.

Still, Tennessee registered three players with over 10 points in the matchup, led by Williams, Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield. The trio combined for 38 of the Vols 55 points, while just 14 points came from the bench. The Vols remain one of the most inconsistent teams in the SEC and the nation following their loss to Missouri.

If Tennessee struggled to get Bone and Bowden going against the Tigers, they will need the duo to be spectacular against a tough South Carolina defense. The Vols big men will likely be able to hold their own against the Gamecocks, but improved guard play is imperative if they want to steal a win in Columbia.

A win would snap South Carolina’s two-game win streak over SEC opponents, and would give head coach Rick Barnes and Tennessee its seventh win over a top 100 ranked teams in RPI.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

No. 19 Tennessee falls to Arkansas in overtime

No. 19 Tennessee (9-3, 0-1 SEC) was taken down by Arkansas (11-2, 1-0 SEC) in overtime on Saturday afternoon, 95-93. Senior guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford guided the Razorbacks past the Vols with a combined 61 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Arkansas tabbed its sixth straight win, and will now likely be ranked for the first time since 2014 after knocking off Tennessee. The Vols never lost the lead going into the half, but the script quickly flipped in the second half. The Razorbacks trailed the majority of the game before cutting it to 73-72 with a minute left to play in regulation.

Jordan Bone made a free throw to tie the game at 73 with just over 18 seconds remaining, and Macon missed a 3-pointer, sending the game into overtime. Arkansas finished the second half on an 11-3 run.

The Razorbacks momentum continued in overtime, as they built a 12 point lead. However, the Volunteers stormed back late by cutting it to a 2-point game with under two seconds remaining in overtime. Tennessee was unable to register a foul as time expired in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

A concerning theme for the 2017 Vols has been coming out of the gates slow in the second half and the inability to close out games.

“We started off the way we wanted to, we led for the first 36 or 37 minutes,” said Bone. “Just like North Carolina, we lost in the last two or three minutes.”

Bone led the Volunteers with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. Four other Tennessee players logged double-digit points, including James Daniel, who scored 17 points off the bench. The Vols were unable to finish off Arkansas despite outscoring their bench 33-5. The Razorbacks averaged 32 points per game from the bench coming into Saturday’s matchup.

Barford (28) and Macon (31) both had career-highs in points for Arkansas and both had the first 13 points for the Razorbacks in overtime. Arkansas scored 22 points in overtime, which is the most in school history.

“I was really impressed with the Arkansas crowd, it’s like our crowd back home,” said Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes. “We played well enough and hard enough, but we weren’t poised enough.”

Both Tennessee and the Razorbacks will return to action on Tuesday. The Volunteers will be back in Thompson-Boling Arena to face Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers, while Arkansas will take on Mississippi State.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Arkansas Athletics 

Tennessee vs Georgia Tech preview

Photo by Brad Blackwelder

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-3) is coming off an embarrassing loss on Friday to Grambling State, and will try to bounce back at home against the promising Tennessee Volunteers (5-1). The Yellow Jackets are concluding a six-game homestand, having played three games last week and three games this week. Georgia Tech’s next road game will come on Wednesday at Wofford.

The Volunteers are coming off a home win against Mercer on Wednesday. Tennessee’s only loss came from No. 5 Villanova. The Vols were projected to finish 13th in the SEC but are starting to turn some heads with its play from Grant Williams, who is averaging 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Tennessee also has a bevy of great guards in Jordan Bone, James Daniel, and Jordan Bowden. The Vols play has been nothing but dominant, and have found a spark in their solid defense. Tennessee will cruise into Atlanta as four-point favorites.

This is going to be a big early-season challenge for Georgia Tech. The Jackets have had an interesting start to their season after two losses to UCLA and Grambling State. Yellow Jackets center Ben Lammers is averaging 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks-per-game. Jose Alvarado has also been very important to the Yellow Jackets by averaging 14 points and showing great leadership in the back court. Tadric Jackson completes Georgia Tech’s backcourt duo with 14 points-per-game as well.

Shembari Phillips, who is a guard sitting out the season for the Yellow Jackets after transferring from Tennessee, had a standout game for the Vols in last year’s meeting with Georgia Tech, with 14 points, seven assists and just one turnover .The Yellow Jackets have been playing great defense, allowing just 59 points-per-game, which is 13th in the country.  With Tennessee scoring 79 points-per-game, it could be a close matchup.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Photo courtesy of UT Sports 

Video: Rick Barnes’ Friday media availability

Photo by Brad Blackwelder.

Tennessee Volunteers head basketball coach Rick Barnes spoke to the media about his return to Clemson on Nov. 5, where the Vols and Tigers will square off to benefit hurricane relief. Barnes also recapped Tennessee’s scrimmage with Davidson last week and who has stepped up for the Vols coming into the season.

Volunteers point guard Jordan Bone spoke on the added depth on the roster, the improvements he has made coming into the new season, and his take on the new wave of freshman.

Featured image courtesy of Brad Blackwelder