No. 20 Tennessee breezes past Alabama State 76-41
By STEVE MEGARGEE
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee’s stingy defense made up for its own poor outside shooting as the Volunteers had no trouble extending the longest active Division I home winning streak.
Jordan Bowden scored 16 points Wednesday night to help No. 20 Tennessee trounce Alabama State 76-41 for its 29th straight home victory.
Tennessee (4-0) shot just 6 of 21 from 3-point range but held Alabama State (0-4) without a basket for the final 9 minutes, 39 seconds of the game.
“There’s going to be nights like that when we can’t put the ball in the basket, but we’ve got to stop them from putting the ball in the basket as well,” said Tennessee’s Josiah-Jordan James, who shot 1 of 7 but had 13 rebounds. “I feel like our struggles on offense kind of lit a fire in us defensively to stop them from scoring.”
Tennessee’s defense even held Alabama State’s offense in check after the Vols emptied their bench. The Hornets shot 28% (14 of 50) overall and 16.7% (4 of 24) in the second half.
“When you’re playing a team as long as Tennessee from the point guard down to the five man, it’s difficult for our guys to get shots off,” Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson said.
Lamonte’ Turner added 13 points and six assists for Tennessee. Turner is averaging 8.5 assists this season and entered the night ranked second among all Division I players in that category.
Bowden and Turner also became the 51st and 52nd Tennessee players to join the 1,000-point club. Bowden has 1,011 career points, while Turner has 1,002.
“Their growth has been amazing,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Both of them are really hard-working great people, the kind of people you want to be around every day. I don’t know if they ever have a bad day.’’
Yves Pons scored 11 points and John Fulkerson added 10 for Tennessee. Alabama State’s Tobi Ewuosho led all scorers with 17 points.
The Hornets stayed close early thanks to Tennessee’s struggles from long range. After Bowden made Tennessee’s first 3-point attempt of the night, the Vols missed their next eight shots from beyond the arc.
Tennessee led just 16-15 before closing the first half with an 18-8 run. Tennessee then scored nine of the first 11 points in the second half and never looked back.
Alabama State: This latest road game continued Alabama State’s brutal early-season schedule. Alabama State is playing its first 15 games away from home before finally hosting Mississippi Valley State on Jan. 11. That 15-game stretch includes 11 true road games and four neutral-site matchups.
Tennessee: Barnes wasn’t particularly happy about the way his older players performed. Barnes didn’t like his team’s shot selection early on when Tennessee struggled to pull away from Alabama State.
He was much more complimentary of his underclassmen.
“It’s about us trying to get better,” Barnes said. “Stop trying to make spectacular home-run plays and think you’re going to blow somebody out. It’s about learning how to play good quality basketball, and can you do it for 40 minutes. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do it tonight. Our younger guys, I thought tonight did what we wanted to see happen from their point of view. The older guys, I don’t think they answered the bell.”
Tennessee officials announced after the game that reserve forward Zach Kent has stepped away from the program indefinitely. Kent remains enrolled at the school, and the issue isn’t discipline-related.
Kent had appeared in two games and had played a total of 10 minutes this season.
Tennessee hasn’t lost at Thompson-Boling Arena since falling 94-84 to Auburn on Jan. 2, 2018.
Alabama State visits No. 21 VCU on Monday.
Tennessee hosts Chattanooga on Monday.
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Updated November 20, 2019