TUSCALOOSA, AL– There were likely very few fans of the Volunteers that thought Tennessee could erase a 15-point deficit on the road in Tuscaloosa— which had been a house of horrors for the Vols in the past— to earn their 5th SEC win on the season, but under the guidance of John Fulkerson and Jordan Bowden they were able to stun their rivals to the south as they now have a winning record in SEC play.
The game of basketball is about responding to adversity when many teams would give up. When Tennessee faced the possibility of getting manhandled by the Crimson Tide, instead of buckling in for the long haul and waiting to get on the bus out of Tuscaloosa, they stood up and fought back. Slowly but surely, Tennessee was able to shut Alabama down on offense, and capitalized off of the Crimson Tide’s mistakes when they had the ball. Tennessee was able to force Alabama into foul trouble— fouling out all three of the Tide’s big men— and nailed 23 free throws, it mattered most. Yves Pons— who is known for struggling at the line—nailed 2 shots from the line to seal victory for the Big Orange.
The players of the game were without a doubt John Fulkerson, who scored 22-points, and Jordan Bowden, who scored 20-points, in addition to blowing up in the 2nd half. Yves Pons also had a very strong showing as he went for 14-points and 14 rebounds. Without Pons— who absolutely bullied a smaller Alabama team on the boards— the odds of a successful outing for Tennessee tonight would have dropped to nearly zero. Santiago Vescovi struggled for the majority of the night but was able to contribute 8-points to the Volunteers’ winning-efforts in Coleman Coliseum, and proved to be monumental down the stretch nailing down 2 key free throws.
If Tennessee was unable to come out of this game victorious there would have been a decent chance that the Volunteers’ NCAA Tournament hopes would be all but dead, in addition to having to limp into a crucial match-up against their biggest rivals— the Kentucky Wildcats— on Saturday. This win is not only a bright candle of hopefulness in a deep sea of darkness, it is also a quality victory because— as we all know— it is never easy to walk into an opponent’s house and give them a loss.
Alabama was a team that was barely missing out on the NCAA Tournament, and as a result of Tennessee’s victory, they could just find themselves back in the hunt for a tournament appearance if they can continue the momentum up with a victory over Kentucky on Saturday in Thompson-Boling Arena. One thing is clear: the stakes of this weekend’s match-up against the Wildcats are at an all-time high. Kentucky is looking to recover after a bad stumble on the road against Auburn last weekend and Tennessee looks to put some wind back into the sails.
In addition, John Fulkerson and Jordan Bowden must continue to stay hot. As the two veteran leaders on the team, they have to continue to perform strongly in order for Tennessee to keep winning— especially when their team is fighting an uphill battle on the road like tonight. If Fulkerson and Bowden continue to stay hot, and Yves Pons continues to destroy teams on the board, Tennessee has the potential to be in the Tournament, and once you make it into the Tournament, literally anything can happen.
The Volunteers’ next match-up is on CBS at 1:00 ET against their bitter rival: the Kentucky Wildcats.