Lamonte Turner had a season-high 23 points in a rare start and Grant Williams added 19 as top-ranked Tennessee shook off a rough beginning to extend its winning streak to 14 games with an 83-66 win over visiting West Virginia on Saturday.
After needing overtime to win at Vanderbilt just two days after claiming the No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 on Monday, the Volunteers (18-1) had a relatively easy time handling a Mountaineers squad that’s dropped seven of the last eight.
However, Tennessee opened 1 of 8 from the floor and trailed by 12 - its largest deficit at any point this season - with a little more than 11 minutes left in the first half.
That’s when West Virginia (9-11), which opened 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, went cold and the Vols were able to take over.
Paced by Turner, who made his first start since March 9, 2017, and Williams, they went on a 17-0 run to pull ahead, and closed the half on a 24-2 spurt for a 10-point lead at the break.
The victory, part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, matches Tennessee’s longest winning streak since 1922-23, and extended its run at home to 20 consecutive victories. The latter being the longest such winning stretch during the Rick Barnes era.
Williams, meanwhile, needed some time to heat up after scoring a career-high 43 points and making all 23 of his free-throw attempts against Vandy. He went 9 of 12 from the stripe Saturday.
Esa Ahmad had 16 points to lead West Virginia, which committed 24 turnovers. The Mountaineers also lost junior guard James Bolden to an apparent ankle injury in this contest. Bolden entered the game one of West Virginia’s top scorers, averaging 12.8 points.
Things don’t get any easier for the Mountaineers, who return to Big 12 action with a visit to No. 24 Iowa State on Wednesday. Tennessee, meanwhile, will also hit the road at South Carolina in SEC play on Tuesday.
—Field Level Media