No. 21 Tennessee pulls away from Wake Forest
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Maybe because of its first-half struggles, Tennessee had plenty of juice for the rest of the game.
The No. 21 Volunteers put that to use Saturday afternoon, pulling away from host Wake Forest in a 79-60 victory at Joel Coliseum.
Tennessee used a strong start to the second half and later scored the game’s final 13 points.
Tennessee guard Jordan Bowden scored 17 points as he was 5 of 5 on 3-pointers, with four of those baskets in the second half.
“We try to tell him to be more aggressive, but he knows when to go,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.
Bowden had 14 of his points in the second half. Admiral Schofield finished with 14 points for Tennessee (9-2). Jordan Bone added 12 points, while Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander each had 11 points.
In a strange way, Tennessee’s first-half foul trouble might have been beneficial.
“The fact that Grant and Admiral sat there for a while (with foul trouble), they had good energy in the second half,” Barnes said. “We rebounded a little bit better in the second half.”
The Volunteers enter Southeastern Conference play next weekend with fewer than three losses for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
The Volunteers shot 58.6 percent from the field in the second half.
“When we had to execute, I felt like we did well (against) their zone at times,” Barnes said.
Meanwhile, the Demon Deacons made only 32.1 percent (9 of 28) of their second-half shots.
Keyshawn Woods scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half for Wake Forest (7-5), which had its longest winning streak (six games) in eight years end. Mitchell Wilbekin added 11 points.
“We stopped making shots in the second half,” Woods said. “We just weren’t making shots and when you’re not making shots, you have to defend.”
The Demon Deacons, who were facing a nationally ranked team for the first time this season, committed 20 turnovers.
Up 59-49 with less than nine minutes to play, the Volunteers wavered at times down the stretch but did not allow Wake Forest to pull closer than five points.
“We were in striking distance,” Demon Deacons coach Danny Manning said. “We didn’t finish the game the way we were supposed to. ... We just had to grind it out if you will, and we weren’t able to do it.”
Schofield’s 3-pointer stretched the lead to 72-60 and Bowden’s 3 on the next possession clinched it.
Tennessee hit eight of its first 10 shots in the second half to bolt to a 52-43 edge.
Trailing 57-49, Wake Forest scoring leader Bryant Crawford picked up his fourth foul with 9:57 remaining.
Crawford was held to three points on 1 of 6 shooting. That ended his 36-game stretch of double-figure scoring, a mark that was the longest active string among Atlantic Coast Conference players.
“He’s human,” Wilbekin said of his teammate. “I guess we’ve been kind of spoiled because he’s that good.”
Tennessee led 36-35 at halftime; the Volunteers still haven’t trailed at the half this season.
“Now we have to get more consistent,” Barnes said.
Williams, the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, was called for an elbowing foul on the opening tip, creating a video review one second into the game. Williams, who’s from Charlotte and had plenty of supporters in the stands, said he wasn’t impacted by the extra attention.
The Volunteers were charged with five fouls barely more than four minutes into the game.
NOTES: This was the first nontournament meeting between Tennessee and Wake Forest since 1970. ... This marked the third year in a row that a Southeastern Conference team visited Wake Forest, which defeated Arkansas two years ago and beat LSU last year. ... Tennessee is 3-1 against Atlantic Coast Conference foes this season. ... Wake Forest C Doral Moore hadn’t missed more than one shot from the field in any of the last eight games, but he was 1 of 3 in the first half. ... Tennessee’s two losses this season came to the past two national champions: Villanova and North Carolina. ... Tennessee goes to Arkansas next Saturday for its SEC opener. ... Wake Forest opens ACC play next Saturday at North Carolina.