KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – At media day, Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden said that they believe they’re the best backcourt duo in college basketball this season.
The two seniors got off to a hot start on Wednesday.
Turner and Bowden combined to score 45 points in Tennessee’s 107-59 exhibition win over Eastern New Mexico at Thompson-Boling Arena. Turner scored a game-high 23 points while Bowden chipped in 22. The duo also combined for 12 assists and 12 rebounds but also had 10 turnovers.
“Between the two of them, they had 10 turnovers and (were) trying to do a little bit too much,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “They had a couple passes where they were playing off two feet. Those two guys have worked as hard as anybody since we’ve been here and we need them to have big years and to do their part. Other than their turnovers, I would say I’m happy with their effort in what they’re trying to get done.”
Despite the final score, Tennessee did not jump out to great start as Eastern New Mexico owned the lead for a portion of the first half.
“I was surprised a bit with the nerves all of them had at the start of the game,” Barnes said. “They weren’t executing. We were just playing with no purpose. We need Fulky, like all these guys that are new, to understand there are different roles for the guys coming back. He’s in a different role where he’s going to be counted on to do what he did tonight. He’s going to be in the game playing for us differently. We need him to be consistent.”
John Fulkerson owned Tennessee’s only double-double performance on Wednesday, totaling 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Josiah-Jordan James had a team-tying seven assists to go with 10 points in his debut on Rocky Top. James, who arrived to Tennessee as a 5-star recruit, played 23 minutes despite being limited in the offseason.
“Overall, I think he did okay,” Barnes said. “This is really the first time he’s been out there with Lamonté and Bowden. We can’t really do that much in practice. This is the most he’s played in six weeks. He hasn’t been through a full practice in six weeks. He’s a really hard worker. He’s very conscientious. He wants to do the right thing. He just needs to play his way back in shape. That’s why we’re trying to get as many minutes as we could for those guys on the court tonight. They’re going to be out there a lot together. Really, again, for his lack of practice, I think he did a pretty good job.”
The top storyline entering the season was how Barnes would replace four players who left for the NBA with newcomers. Barnes admitted there’s a different feel entering this year.
“It’s different. It is,” Barnes said. “What you just said is just that. Right now, it’s early in the season. You don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s going to get down to players convincing us that we can trust them. That will determine how many guys we play and how deep we go. It’s different. A year ago, we pretty much knew how it was going to play out. We’re going to wait and see who settles in to do the job and play the roles that we need them to play. I do like the young guys that are really trying. They’re going to find out that they’re going to have to try even harder. We’ll see when we move forward.”
Tennessee welcomes UNC-Asheville on Nov. 5 for the season opener.