DALLAS — Tennessee basketball’s X-factor player for its game Saturday isn’t trying to hide from the fact.
Jordan Bone, an explosive sophomore point guard in Nashville, knows the No. 3-seed Vols likely will need him at his best against No. 11-seed Loyola University Chicago.
“Yeah, they are a guard-heavy team, and they are really good,” Bone said in the Tennessee locker room session on Friday. “I’m ready to accept the challenge, and everyone on our roster is ready to as well.”
The Vols (26-8) will need to value their possessions against the Missouri Valley Conference champion Ramblers (29-5), as their NCAA Tournament game Saturday at American Airlines Center figures to be of the low-scoring variety.
“They’re very skilled, very composed, it’s like they have been here before,” Bone said. “They handle the ball well, and they don’t turn it over much.”
The scouting report calls for Tennessee to keep the Ramblers out of the lane, as their guards and forwards have the ability to penetrate and “drive-draw-dish” when they aren’t running the offense through the high post.
Bone has started at point guard for the Vols all season, but he doesn’t always finish.
Coach Rick Barnes determines the best guard rotation during the course of games, and sometimes that means Lamonte Turner and James Daniel lll getting to finish.
Inconsistency, Barnes says, is Bone’s biggest issue.
“Jordan Bone, he’s talented, but he’s got to be able to affect the game when he’s not shooting the ball well,” Barnes said Wednesday in Dallas. “Whether it’s with his defense, moving the ball, passing the ball.”
Jordan Bone’s last 5 games
Wright State 3/15/18 … 4 points, 0 assists
Kentucky 3/11/18 … 12 points, 4 assists
Arkansas 3/10/18 … 19 points, 4 assists
Mississippi State 3/9/18… 5 points, 3 assists
Georgia 3/3/18 … 6 points, 0 assists
It was Turner, the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year, who led the Vols with 19 points and a career-high 9 assists in UT’s NCAA Tournament-opening 73-47 win over Wright State.
Bone had just 4 points with no assists and 1 turnover in the 19 minutes he played on Thursday.
Tennessee’s team chemistry is such that the players root for one another.
But at the same time, Bone knows he needs to increase his production, like he did in the SEC Tournament when he had 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting against Arkansas.
“Being the guy I was against Arkansas takes a level of toughness of concentration,” Bone said. “That’s the guy they want me to be all the time.
“I’m excited they know I have the “it” to do it, it’s just a matter of me doing it and taking the toughness to another level.”