Tennessee grabbed another big road win over an ACC team with a 79–60 victory over Wake Forest in Winston Salem on Saturday. The Vols improve to 9–2 on the year and they now have three wins over ACC teams, all of which came away from Thompson Boling Arena.
Here’s a few observations from the game…
Kyle Alexander is Tennessee’s most improved player
Junior forward Kyle Alexander has struggled finding his role for Tennessee in past seasons. But this year, he’s finally finding his footing. Without Alexander’s solid play in the first half against the Demon Deacons, the Vols likely would have found themselves in a hole. Grant Williams had two early fouls and nothing was working for the Big Orange, but thankfully, Alexander came to play and he led UT to a one point advantage at the halfway point. He finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists and he’s beginning to solidify himself as a quality asset for Rick Barnes’ squad.
Jordan Bowden continues to shine
A Knoxville kid who came to UT without any real hype has become the most important player in Tennessee’s backcourt. Sophomore Jordan Bowden has been consistently excellent for the Vols and Saturday was no different. Bowden poured in a team high 17 points, grabbed three rebounds, and shot 5–5 from deep. He also nailed a clutch three pointer in the final couple of minutes of the contest that salted things away for UT. Bowden is proving to be one of the best shooters in the SEC and it’s fair to think that Bowden actually doesn’t shoot enough. He’s very discerning with his shots and if he keeps getting more confident, it’ll be very bad news for the Vols’ opponents.
Rebounding must improve
This was obviously an impressive win for UT but it wasn’t without its faults. Tennessee got out-rebounded 35–29 and the Vols were never really able to get comfortable cleaning the glass. Going into a very tough conference schedule, this must improve for Barnes’ team to find consistent success. Grant Williams needs to be careful not get in foul trouble and guys like Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield need to get more aggressive going after the ball. Winning the rebounding battle is such a big part of playing quality basketball and the Vols still have a ways to go to get peak performance out of the low post.
Tennessee will travel to Fayetteville on Saturday, December 30th to take on Arkansas at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be aired on the SEC Network.