No. 21 Tennessee holds off stubborn Furman
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes insisted his team’s sluggish performance Wednesday night had everything to do with Furman and nothing to do with any post-North Carolina hangover.
Admiral Schofield recorded a double-double, and No. 21 Tennessee survived a stern test from Furman in a 66-61 win Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn.
Schofield scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Jordan Bowden finished with 21 points for the Volunteers (8-2). Tennessee bounced back from a loss to No. 5 North Carolina on Sunday with a hard-fought win over the Paladins.
Tennessee led the Tar Heels into the second half but couldn’t hold on and lost at home in the final minutes on Sunday.
The Volunteers found a way to win Wednesday, but it wasn’t easy.
“Yeah, they were upset after the North Carolina game. There’s no question about it,” Barnes said Wednesday night of his players. “That bothers you, but you’ve got to get on with it. I don’t think the North Carolina game had anything to do with tonight. I don‘t. If it did, we’re very immature, if that was the case.”
Grant Williams hit a one-handed floater off a spin move in the lane to give the Volunteers a 63-61 lead with 54 seconds to play.
Furman’s Devin Sibley missed a contested runner on the Paladins’ next possession, and the Volunteers made enough free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
“Furman is a good basketball team, and I don’t want to take anything away from them because I thought they played a really good basketball game,” Barnes said. “But we found a way at the end, and you have to do that sometimes when you’re not playing your best.”
Sibley scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half to lead Furman, which had its five-game winning streak snapped.
Williams added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Volunteers, who outrebounded Furman 47-33.
The Paladins (9-4) led by as many as seven points in a tight, back-and-forth first half dominated by defense. Bowden had 12 points in the first half for the Volunteers, including a three-point play that gave Tennessee a 27-24 lead with 2:18 left in the half. The Vols led 29-26 at the break.
“I told the guys after the game, ‘You guys got to figure out how to bring more energy,'” Barnes said. “This time of year is a difficult time for everybody.”
Schofield and Bowden combined to score the first five points of the second half as the Vols extended their lead to 34-26.
Sibley, the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year, heated up for Furman in the second half. The senior scored the Paladins’ first 13 points of the half before picking up his fourth foul and going to the bench.
Furman hung tough, even with Sibley on the bench, and took a 47-46 lead on three free throws from Geoff Beans with 10:33 left in the second half.
The teams exchanged the lead multiple times in the final 10 minutes.
John Davis III hit a jumper that gave Furman a 59-57 lead with 3:33 to play. Bowden answered with a layup, and Schofield hit a jump hook from the baseline to give Tennessee the lead back. The Vols would not trail again.
“That one hurts,” Furman coach Bob Richey said. “It was fun to see the belief in our guys. Being in the huddle with them down the stretch, you could see it in their eyes that they really thought we were going to win the game. We are finding ways to stay in these games, but it hurts to not close it out.”
NOTES: Tennessee G James Daniel III, in his 100th career game, scored his 2,000th career point on a jumper in the first half. ... Tennessee has won all 11 meetings with Furman. ... The Paladins have 10 days off to regroup before opening Southern Conference play at VMI on Dec. 30. ... The Volunteers travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., on Saturday to take on Wake Forest.