KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Tennessee’s Jordan Bowden and Lamonte’ Turner responded to the gentle scolding they received from their coach last week
Volunteers coach Rick Barnes didn’t like the nine combined turnovers his backcourt duo had produced in a season-opening victory over UNC Asheville. The two seniors bounced back Tuesday and sparked a second-half comeback as Tennessee rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat Murray State 82-63.
”I had real fun tonight,” said Bowden, who scored a career-high 26 points. ”Tonight was a fun night.”
Bowden shot 6 of 8 on 3-point attempts. Turner scored just five points but had a career-high 14 assists. Neither player committed a single turnover.
”Being the leaders that we need them to be and doing what they did, they were terrific – both of them,” Barnes said.
Tennessee (2-0) shot 12 of 22 from 3-point range to earn its 28th consecutive home victory, extending the longest active home winning streak of any Division I team. Tennessee hasn’t lost at home since falling 94-84 to Auburn on Jan. 2, 2018.
Murray State (1-1) made the Volunteers earn this one.
Tennessee scored the game’s first basket but fell behind immediately afterward and wouldn’t regain the lead until midway through the second half. The Vols then pulled away by scoring the game’s final 16 points and shutting out Murray State over the last 7 minutes, 21 seconds.
Bowden scored 19 points during that second-half comeback. Turner shot just 2 of 12 but made up for it with the way he set up his teammates.
”I’ve got to be there for my team,” Turner said. ”I can’t get rattled or upset or whatever or be emotional about it. I kind of just got to keep playing the game, play the game the right way. I think if I do that, I give myself a chance to have a good game in other ways. I can affect the game in other ways now.”
Tennessee’s Yves Pons added a career-high 19 points, while John Fulkerson provided nine points and nine assists. Tevin Brown scored 17 points, Jaiveon Eaves had 13 and KJ Williams added 10 for Murray State.
Murray State led by as many as 12 in the first half and took a 44-35 advantage into the locker room. Murray State shot 8 of 14 from 3-point range and outrebounded Tennessee 22-10 during that dominant first-half performance.
But in the second half, Murray State shot 1 of 9 from 3-point range, got outrebounded 25-12 and had no way of stopping Bowden.
”What you saw from (Turner) and Bowden both were the experience from being on a top-five team in the country a year ago,” Murray State coach Matt McMahon said.
Murray State: The Racers lost the game but served notice they’ll be competitive as they adjust to life without Ja Morant, the former All-America guard who went to the Memphis Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the NBA draft after leading the Racers to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The final score didn’t reflect the way Murray State controlled much of the game.
Tennessee: Bowden sparked the Vols’ comeback, but Pons’ performance also was noteworthy because it showed signs the junior’s ready to deliver a breakthrough season. Pons has posted a career high in scoring in each of Tennessee’s first two games, as he had 15 points in a season-opening victory over UNC Asheville last week. Pons had just 2.2 points per game last season.
Turner’s 14 assists represented the highest single-game total by a Tennessee player since LaMarcus Golden also had 14 assists against South Carolina on Jan. 19, 1994.
Murray State hosts Brescia on Saturday.
Tennessee faces No. 20 Washington in Toronto on Saturday.
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