No. 6 Tennessee heads into Friday's nonconference game against Louisiana after beating Lenoir-Rhyne convincingly on Tuesday, thanks mostly to junior point guard Jordan Bone's defense that set the tone.
Bone scored a team-high 18 points but his contribution on the defensive end, with two steals and constant harassment of Lenoir-Rhyne's ball-handlers, propelled Tennessee to the 81-46 win. The Bears did not have a starter with more than one field goal and they shot 20.9 percent from the field.
"I feel like when I'm going all out on the defensive end, you just kind of get lost in the game," Bone said in the postgame press conference. "It allows you to have a feel for the game defensively and offensively."
Tennessee (1-0) will rely heavily on Bone, a Nashville, Tenn., native, this season after he led the Volunteers with 124 assists with only 44 turnovers. His scoring against Lenoir-Rhyne was a plus after he averaged a mere 7.3 points a game in 2017-18.
"He should wreak havoc on teams away from the ball," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "He has learned to be a pretty good ball-side defense. It's his help-side defense where he has to get better. I can tell you early in the game, he was locked in doing that. We need him to do that."
Bone understands his role, mentioning to reporters after Tuesday's win, "I'm supposed to have command of the team as the point guard."
"[Tennessee's coaches] have given me the confidence and the trust to go out there and play and have command of the team as well as the game -- controlling the pace of the game and knowing what's going on offensively and defensively," he added.
Bone also had six rebounds and three assists in Tuesday's game. The inside-outside combination of him and 6-foot-11 post player Kyle Alexander was too much for Lenoir-Rhyne. Alexander finished with 16 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots.
Tennessee shot 56.7 percent from the field and its starters all scored in double figures, including Bone, Alexander, Admiral Schofield (13 points), Grant Williams (13) and Jordan Bowden (11). Rotational players Yves Pons and John Fulkerson combined for 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting with 10 rebounds.
What we really try to do is not worry about the point guard, two guard, this or that," Barnes said about his rotation. "We just try to figure out how these guys can become the players we think they can be. We put them out there in a system, and hope they can adapt to it."
Louisiana's JaKeenan Gant and Malik Marquetti each scored 19 points to lead six players in double figures and the Ragin' Cajuns shot an impressive 67 percent in their 121-80 opening win Tuesday against the University of the Virgin Islands.
Despite his team shooting 67.1 percent from the field, Louisiana coach Bob Marlin said, "we didn't do too much on offense," with the plan to unleash more set plays against Tennessee.
"We didn't want to show our hand too much as we go into these next couple of games," Marlin added.