KNOXVILLE – In its last game, Tennessee won on a last-second shot against VCU. A much-anticipated visit from in-state rival Memphis is next on the Vols’ schedule on Dec. 14.
By comparison, a men’s basketball date with win-less Florida A&M on Wednesday night wasn’t nearly as captivating and, more or less, lived up to such billing.
The No. 21 Vols (7-1) mustered five double-figure scorers and beat the Rattlers 72-43 in workmanlike fashion before crowd of 17,187 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The victory extended Tennessee’s home winning streak to 31 games and pushed coach Rick Barnes to within one win of his 700th career coaching victory.
Evins Desir, a 6-foot-8, 300-pound offensive tackle look-alike, was the lone double-figure scorer for Florida A&M (0-7) with 11 points.
Along with leading UT in scoring with 15 points, Fulkerson led in shot attempts with 12. Barnes’ referred to the redshirt junior forward’s shot volume as “a good sign.”
“It might be the only time this season where a post guy leads us in shots attempted,” Barnes said.
An over-matched opponent afforded Tennessee another rarity in allowing all of its freshmen to play extended minutes. Josiah-Jordan James, Olivier Nkamhoua, Davonte Gaines and Drew Pember collectively logged more than 85 minutes.
“We had a chance where we could put them out there where they could play through fatigue and mistakes,” Barnes said. “… We needed to do that.”
Nkamhoua made the most of his 23-plus minutes, reaching season highs for points (11) and rebounds (13) in recording his first career double-double.
Barnes continued to tout Nkamhoua’s potential, saying: “He alone can change our team with the ability he has.”
The 6-8 Nkamhoua is processing the long-range view of his talent in a more immediate fashion.
“I just try to work as hard as I can and get better every single day,” he said. “Whatever my potential is, I’m trying to reach it.”
James was the other freshman scoring in double figures with 10 points. But he also had five turnovers while playing point guard. Barnes noted that seven of UT’s 15 turnovers came from the point guard position.
Barnes said that turnovers in general, no matter the source, continue to undermine UT’s defensive effort.
“We put so much pressure on our defense with silly turnovers,” he said.
In other related matters:
– Tennessee’s 19 percent shooting on 3-pointers (3 for 16) was a season low.
– Redshirt senior guard Lamonte Turner played a season-low 20 minutes, 37 seconds.
– Wednesday’s turnout put Tennessee’s per-game home attendance average at 18,021, a respectable total considering UT’s first five opponents.
– Tennessee has won 15 consecutive non-conference home games, dating to a 78-73 loss to North Carolina on Dec. 17, 2017.
– UT's last home loss was 94-86 to Auburn on Jan. 2, 2018. The program record for consecutive home victories is 37 (2006-09). The Vols had a 33-game streak from 1966-68.
* * *
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He may be reached at email@example.com