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. 16 Tennessee searches for final road win of the season in Starkville

Mississippi State (21-8, 9-7 SEC) will host No. 19 Tennessee in Starkville on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. The Volunteers (21-7, 11-5 SEC) are on a two-game winning streak and look to complete the sweep over Mississippi teams in 2018 against the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Mississippi State is in search of its fourth-straight win as it battles for third place in the SEC standings.

Head coach Ben Howland and the Bulldogs have been on a tear recently, as they have won three straight games for the fourth time this season. The run started with an impressive 17-point win over Ole Miss at home and a 93-81 win over Texas A&M in College Station. In its last game, Mississippi State won its bout with South Carolina at home by a score of 72-68.

“That was a phenomenal, gut-check win for us,” said Howland. “South Carolina is so difficult to play against. It’s hard to simulate that pressure in a couple of days of practice because they deny everything.”

The Bulldogs finished off the Gamecocks in overtime by a four-point margin behind a combined 32 points 11, rebounds and nine assists from the guard duo of Lamar Peters and Quinndary Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon’s clutch pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining iced the game for the Bulldogs. The last time that Mississippi State won 21 games was the 2011 season.

Turnovers were the biggest problem for South Carolina, as Mississippi State forced 21 turnovers, 13 steals and seven blocks. The Bulldogs finished the game with four players in double-digit points, including a 13-point performance from guard Tyson Carter off the bench. Quinndary Weatherspoon and his brother Nick Weatherspoon lead Mississippi State in scoring with a combined 25 points per game.

After dropping an ugly loss to Georgia on the road two games ago, Tennessee bounced back with a win over Florida at home. The Volunteers than took care of Ole Miss in Oxford on Saturday, 73-65. Forward Admiral Schofield and guard Jordan Bowden combined for 40 points and 11 rebounds in the Magnolia State last weekend. The Orange-and-White remain undefeated when Bowden goes for over 15 points this season.

“I was just really aggressive offensively,” Schofield said. “I usually play off of Grant, but he got in foul trouble early. I had to step up.”

Most importantly, the Vols held the Rebels to just four percent shooting from 3-point range, and just 33 percent shooting from the field as a whole. Ole Miss’ 1-of-23 shooting from beyond-the-arc would prove to kill them late in the game, as they were unable to rally back. The Rebels out-scored Tennessee by a seven-point margin in the second half, but couldn’t manage to pull off the upset.

“We had a chance to maybe break it loose earlier, but they stayed after it,” said Barnes. “Then we were able to build the lead back up and get a win. This time of year, a win is a win.”

Dominating the boards is extremely important for the Volunteers, as well as getting consistent shooting from players other than Schofield or Grant Williams. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has to focus on shutting down Tennessee’s paint presence and forcing players other than Williams or Schofield to make plays.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

‘Peanut Butter and Jelly’ power No. 19 Vols past Florida

The duo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, who has taken the nickname “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” propelled No. 19 Tennessee to a 62-57 win over Florida in Knoxville Wednesday night.

Tennessee held the Gators to just 35 percent shooting from the field and forced 11 turnovers. With the win, the Vols sit in second place with a two-game lead over third place in the SEC.

“I appreciate the work ethic of our guys,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We’re here because we have a group of guys that like each other.”

Tennessee drew first blood as it got off to a quick 6-0 start after nearly five minutes of first half play. Jordan Bone, Williams and Schofield each had a bucket, as they forced Florida to shoot 0-of-5 to start the game.

The Gators got on the board for the first time at the 15:19 mark when Mike Okauru made a layup to end the scoreless streak.

Defense became the name of the game early on, as the teams combined for seven turnovers and 5-of-16 shooting from the field. The Vols had a nearly three-minute scoreless streak that started at the 14:51 mark. However, Florida also struggled, shooting 2-of-11 from the field and turning it over five times.

“They (Tennessee) are one of the best teams in the country,” Gators head coach Mike White said. “They have linebackers like Schofield and Williams that move like guards.”

Both teams finally breached the double-digit point barrier at the 10-minute mark on a fade away 3-point shot from Florida’s Egor Koulechov. The Gators tied the game up with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half. Florida took the lead with five minutes to go on a Chris Chiozza layup.

A 3-pointer from James Daniel III with 3:21 remaining in the half put the Vols up 21-17 and sparked an 11-1 Tennessee run. The Volunteers coasted into the halftime break with a 27-18 lead.

At the half, both teams combined for 18 turnovers and 17 personal fouls.

Williams led Tennessee at the half with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field. Meanwhile, the Gators Koulechov and Chris Chiozza led the team with a combined eight points. Neither team shot above 40 percent from the field. Florida finished 7-of-26 shooting in the first half.

A deep 3-pointer from Chiozza and a layup from Kevarrius Hayes gave the Gators a quick five points in the second half.

The Volunteers ended their three-minute scoring drought to start the second half with shots from beyond-the-arc by Admiral Schofield. Following a Jordan Bowden 3-pointer, the Vols went on a 6-0 run to take a 33-23 lead.

With just over 13 minutes remaining in the game, Florida cut the 10-point deficit down with a 9-0 run capped by an and-one from Keith Stone. The Vols finally stopped the bleeding with a monster dunk from Bowden. A bucket from Williams gave them a 41-36 lead midway through the second half.

An and-one from Schofield put Tennessee on a 7-0 run, as the orange-and-white held the Gators scoreless for three minutes. Koulechov answered with a three, getting Florida back in the game at the 7:19 mark to cut the Volunteers lead to 44-41.

The Volunteers took their second 10-point lead of the game, but 11 second half points from Jalen Hudson kept Florida in the game. Tennessee had just a four-point lead with under two minutes left to play in the game and proceeded to ride Williams for the remainder of the game.

“He is so strong and he’s so disciplined with his ability to post with ultimate physicality,” White said. “He’s versatile, he makes it look easy.”

Bowden iced the win for the Vols at the free throw stripe with 13.6 seconds remaining, giving Tennessee the 62-57 win.

The Volunteers now hit the road to take on Ole Miss this Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 18 Tennessee grinds out win over South Carolina

Rick Barnes and No. 18 Tennessee received a game-winning bucket from forward Grant Williams with 10 seconds remaining to beat South Carolina 70-67. Three Volunteers finished in double-digit points, with Williams leading the team with 14 second-half points and five rebounds.

“We’re going to be in ugly games, we know that,” Barnes said. “Defense can win for you and it did tonight.”

The Vols got off to a solid start from beyond-the-arc, as Jordan Bowden kicked off the scoring with two quick 3-pointers. Tennessee’s swarming defense then forced the Gamecocks to go on a three minute shooting drought starting at the 18:15 mark of the first half.

A jumper from Chris Silva finally ended the Gamecocks scoreless streak with 14:31 remaining in the first half. However, Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner kept the team hot from deep range as he hit a 3-pointer to give the Vols an 11-7 lead.

South Carolina didn’t stay down for long though, finally taking the lead with a post hook from Felipe Haase after seven minutes of play. The Gamecocks went on to hit their next four shots while forcing five Tennessee turnovers through the first eight minutes of the game.

Tennessee shot 67 percent from the field and got another 3-pointer from Bowden to take a 21-17 lead halfway through the first half. The tides finally turned as the Vols went on a 10-0 run over the next five minutes to take a 27-17 lead over South Carolina.

The Vols spent the final 4:28 of the first half in a scoring drought of their own despite being in the double-bonus. The Gamecocks cut down the Tennessee lead to 38-34, as the Vols finished the first half shooting 31 percent from the field. Bowden led the Volunteers with 11 first half points, while Silva and Frank Booker led South Carolina with eight points each.

The Gamecocks started hot in the second half, as they went on a 6-0 run to tie the game with over 18 minutes remaining. However, Tennessee responded with an 8-0 run including a 3-point shot from forward Admiral Schofield. South Carolina ended the four-minute scoring drought and cut the deficit to 48-42 with a jumper from Silva at the 14:34 mark.

“We had that lull in the second half that deflated us defensively,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said. “But we had a little fight in us today.”

Williams jump-started the Vols offense with seven early points in the second half, followed by yet another Bowden 3-pointer with 12:27 left in the game that led to a 10-0 run. The three minute scoreless streak from the Gamecocks gave Tennessee a 58-45 lead halfway through the second half.

Still, the Gamecocks wouldn’t be put away easily, as they went on an 10-0 run in one minute to cut the Vols lead to just four points with seven minutes remaining. The Volunteers finally responded with a 3-pointer from James Daniel III with 3:38 remaining in the game to stretch the lead to 68-59.

South Carolina cut the deficit to just one point with 30 seconds remaining but were unable to complete the comeback.

“We played much harder defensively,” Barnes said. “Defensively we were a much better team than we were against Alabama.”

Tennessee now hits the road to play Georgia on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Seth Raborn

No. 18 Tennessee looks to bounce back against South Carolina

Head Coach Rick Barnes and the Volunteers look for an important in-conference win over South Carolina (13-12, 4-8 SEC) on Tuesday at 9 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Gamecocks lost their last five games, including three straight losses by deficits of 14 points or more.

In the last meeting, the Vols notched a 70-63 win over South Carolina in Columbia behind guard Lamonte Turner’s career-high tying 25 points.

Tennessee (18-6, 8-4 SEC) seeks redemption after a 78-50 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The Crimson Tide held Tennessee to a season-low 27 points in the first half and handed the Big Orange its worst loss of the season. Just one Volunteer reached double-digit scoring – Grant Williams with 16 points on just 5-of-12 shooting.

Alabama out-rebounded the usually stout Vols by a 40-35 margin. The Crimson Tide seemed to hit everything, as they shot 57 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond-the-arc.

Meanwhile, Tennessee shot an incredibly low 27 percent from the field and just 23 percent from 3-point range. Alabama tallied at least two points from 10 different players. Freshman Collin Sexton led the Tide with 16 points and five rebounds on the night.

“We pretty much got what we deserved, it took us 10 minutes into that game before we were even close to being the defensive team we’ve been all year,” Barnes said. “Our offense didn’t help us at all because of guys breaking out on their own.”

The Gamecocks have not won since Jan. 24 at Florida. However, in their last game against the Gators on Saturday, South Carolina failed to get a win at home and sweep Florida for the season. Senior guard Frank Booker led the team with 17 points off the bench. Chris Silva added an additional 10 points in the 65-41 loss.

Florida got up early with a 41-20 lead at halftime and didn’t let up behind the guard duo of Chris Chiozza and Jalen Hudson, who tallied 24 points. The Gators held the Gamecocks to just 28 percent shooting from the field and just 15 percent shooting from 3-point range. Florida dogged South Carolina on the boards by a 46-24 margin. The Gators tallied 11 offensive rebounds in the win.

Silva and Booker headline the Gamecocks’ offensive attack, as the only two players averaging more than 10 points per game. Meanwhile, the Vols have three players including Grant Williams who average double-digits per game. Jordan Bowden just misses the mark with an average of 9.7 points per game. However, if Tennessee plays like it did Saturday, the Gamecocks may get the win.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for South Carolina obviously,” Barnes said. “They’re going to fight hard… They’ve had some offensive struggles as well, but they went to Florida and won a big game.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Turner buries No. 24 Kentucky to sweep Cats for first time since 1999

Lamonte Turner etched his name in Tennessee basketball history books Tuesday night.

Trailing 58-56 with 28 seconds remaining and 10 seconds left on the shot clock, Turner drilled a deep three to give Tennessee a 59-58 lead.

“I had confidence,” Turner said to the Vol Network following the game. “When it left my hand, I was pretty sure it was going in.”

“He’s a competitor,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said of Turner. “He’s not afraid to take the shot.”

Following Turner’s clutch three, Jordan Bowden forced a turnover and threw it ahead to Admiral Schofield who threw down a vicious dunk. The dunk gave Tennessee a 61-58 lead with four seconds remaining and put the dagger in Kentucky.

“As a group, our guys look at each other and they believe in each other,” Barnes said. “We just kept talking, let’s stay with it defensively and rebound the ball, and we’ll find something on the other end.”

As a result, No. 15 Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC) picked up its first win in Rupp Arena since 2006 and sweeps the season-series with No. 24 Kentucky (17-7, 6-5 SEC) for the first time since 1998-99.

“It’s very important,” Turner said when asked about sweeping Kentucky. “It’s a great feeling. When I get back home, I think I’ll realize how big of a win it really is.”

The matchup wasn’t all sunshine and roses for the Vols on Tuesday night. For the first time in quite some time, the Vols offense didn’t show up ready to play.

The one person who did come ready to play though was Turner. The redshirt-sophomore out of Huntsville, Alabama carried Tennessee through an ugly first half. Turner led Tennessee with 16 points on the night, 11 of which came in the first half.

In the opening frame, Turner’s teammates were just 6-of-20 from the field and 0-of-7 from the three-point line while Turner was 4-of-6 from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond-the-arc.

Despite the offensive struggles in the first half, Tennessee built a 27-26 halftime lead thanks to its play on the defensive end. In the first ten minutes of the half, Kentucky shot just 1-of-9 from the field and turned it over five times. The Cats didn’t score their first field goal until 14 and a half minutes into the game.

The loss of Kyle Alexander played a big role in the Vols’ first half struggles. With 12:25 remaining in the half, Alexander picked up his second foul and was forced to sit on the bench for the remainder of the half. In just six minutes, the junior had scored four points, hauled in two rebounds, blocked two shots and picked up a steal.

Bowden stepped up in the second half while his teammates struggled, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes.

The affair flipped back-and-forth in the second half, as neither team led by more than three points until Grant Williams knocked down a pair of free throws to take a 50-46 lead.

The Cats would then go on a 7-0 run capped by a Kevin Knox and-one to take a 53-50 lead. Following a pair of Bowden free throws, Tennessee cut the lead to one.

After Kentucky took a 58-56 lead, Alexander forced a game-changing Kentucky turnover. Barnes then called a timeout that set up the Turner three to take the lead–a lead that the Vols wouldn’t give up on their way to just their fifth all-time win in Rupp Arena.

Bowden would go on to finish with 13 points and eight rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting. Schofield finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while Grant Williams scored 10 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the free throw line.

Tennessee has little time to soak in the victory. The Vols will head to Tuscaloosa Saturday to take on a talented but young Alabama team at 6 p.m. ET.

“This is the best basketball league in the country, and I don’t know why people don’t want to own up to that,” Barnes said as his team gears up for another tough challenge. “If it keeps going like it is right now, this league should have nine teams in the NCAA Tournament. It’s as competitive as any league I’ve coached in.”

“It’s all Alabama now,” Turner said.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics