If the Emerald Coast Classic showed us anything, it’s that Big Orange has a big problem: Other than Lamonte Turner, no one is taking ownership of Tennessee’s offensive production.
And . . . a blowout win over Florida A & M was not enough to say that this issue has been resolved.
Against Florida State, Yves Pons starred as “The French Freak,” scoring 13 points while putting on a levitation act with two jaw-dropping dunks. He also showed nice range by sinking two threes. Fast forward to VCU. Pons asserted his will with uncanny athleticism early but faded to the background as the game progressed. To be fair, he put 9 on the board; however, he quickly went from “Who’s that guy?” to “Where’s that guy?” Pons can dominate, but will he?
In both games, Jordan Bowden played the role of the unknown hero who questions whether it is time to unleash his powers. The answer is clear—YES! It is actually past time. Bowden is on the cusp of something special, but he needs to trade his current role for that of a two guard who scores over 15 points per game against tough competition. If he can’t, come March, the Vols will be heading back to Knoxville after the first round.
This brings us to John Fulkerson and Lamonte Turner, the mystery players among the Tennessee starters.
The Fulkerson mystery is straightforward: Is he the player who averaged 15.5 points in the low post against Washington and VCU, both worthy opponents, or is he the player who scored 2 points in 29 minutes versus Florida State? Because most of his 17 points in the VCU game came on open shots under the basket, it’s reasonable to wonder if that performance may be the exception, not the rule. But, Fulkerson has the moxie to prove otherwise.
Lamonte Turner is a mystery because he has to do too many things when Tennessee has the ball. So, it’s unclear what his role is on the offense. Although he is a solid point guard, against Florida State and VCU, the Vols leaned too heavily on his ability to shoot and drive when they needed points.
If this continues, Rick Barnes may opt to play freshman Josiah Jordan-James more at the point to let Turner create scoring opportunities for himself. But, when this happened late in the VCU game, one thing became clear: Turner is a one, not a two. Another bit of clarity: Tennessee will not go far if Turner is forced to be something that he is not.
It’s time for someone other than Lamonte Turner to step up and score big on Rocky Top.