KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT.) -- All offseason long, Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner have been hyped up as the best backcourt in America.
The two guards did their best to show why Wednesday night, combining for 45 points in Tennessee's 107-59 exhibition win over Eastern New Mexico at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Those guys, are guys we count on, and I thought they were playing hard," said UT head coach Rick Barnes.
"Between the two of them, they had 10 turnovers and (were) trying to do a little bit too much. 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," said Barnes.
One of the main questions heading into this season revolved around replacing four starters lost to graduation or the NBA draft. Coach Rick Barnes talked about continuing to have a presence down low on offense, and that showed tonight. Junior forward John Fulkerson helped the Vols score the first 12 points of the game from inside the paint. The Kingsport native ended the night with a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"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," said Barnes.
Josiah-Jordan James nearly ended the night with a double-double, as he posted 10 points and tied for a team-high seven assists, while also adding five rebounds.
“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," said Barnes.
James says he's continuing to adjust to the speed of the college game, especially on defense.
“It’s definitely been tough, because he (Barnes) wants you to attack everything, but it’s good. I feel like we did an okay job of it today. We set a good standard today, but it’s been tough because you’ve got to give it all on defense. That’s where it starts and that’s why I think we picked it up. That’s where we started getting in our groove, because you don’t want to have to slow down plays every time. You want to get out and run the transition and get fast break points. He emphasizes that. It’s what the best teams do. It all starts on defense," said James.
Tennessee now turns its focus to Tuesday's regular-season opener against UNC Asheville. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.