KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Wisconsin finally ended its road woes and helped Tennessee realize how much it misses injured guard Lamonte’ Turner. D’Mitrik Trice scored 21 points and Brevin Pritzl added 17 as Wisconsin trounced Tennessee 68-48 on Saturday, Dec. 28 to win away from home for the first time this season.
“This is how we’ve been playing at home,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “It’s good to see that it wasn’t just the curse of the red (road) jersey.”
Wisconsin (7-5) entered the day 0-5 away from Madison, a mark that included an 0-2 record in true road games and an 0-3 mark in the Legends Classic at Brooklyn, New York. The Badgers were scoring 80 points per game and shooting 40.1% from 3-point range at home, where they’re unbeaten. They were averaging just 56.8 points and shooting 22.9% on 3-point attempts away from Madison.
Yet the Badgers felt right at home in front of a sellout crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena against a Tennessee team that had won 32 of its last 33 home games. Trice and Pritzl each shot 4 of 8 from 3-point range to lead the way.
“Now that we know we can do it, it’s just going to factor into when we go into Big Ten play, that we can win in these big-time environments,” Trice said.
Wisconsin led by as many as 28 points and never trailed all day as Tennessee (8-4) struggled in its first game since Turner announced that he wouldn’t play the rest of the season due to thoracic outlet syndrome that required shoulder surgery. The fifth-year senior guard entered the day ranked second on the team in scoring (11.8) and tied for ninth among all Division I players in assists (7.1).
The Volunteers filled the vacant spot in the lineup by giving freshman guard Davonte Gaines his first career start, but they couldn’t replace Turner’s production as they fell for the third time in their last four games.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Tennessee’s Jalen Johnson, who scored nine points to match John Fulkerson for the team lead. “Our fans definitely deserve more.”
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes downplayed the impact of Turner’s absence on Saturday’s game.
“We’ve struggled on offense even with Lamonte’,” Barnes said. “That has nothing to do with it.’’
Barnes acknowledged that Tennessee must get better backcourt play and noted that the Vols’ starting guards — Jordan Bowden, Josiah-Jordan James and Gaines — shot a combined 4 of 27 from the floor while the starting frontcourt of Fulkerson and Yves Pons teamed up to shoot 5 of 7.
“And all we’d talked about was playing inside out,” Barnes said.
Wisconsin built a 38-24 halftime advantage by controlling the tempo and shooting 7 of 13 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes.
The Badgers then broke the game open by scoring the first nine pints of the second half as Tennessee’s offense crumbled. Tennessee had six turnovers, four shots and no points in the first 6 minutes, 24 seconds of the second half before Gaines finally sank two free throws to cut Wisconsin’s lead to 47-26.
That stretch assured Wisconsin would get that elusive road win before the calendar turned to 2020.
“It’s just going to build our resume, come March,” Trice said. “It’s just good to get this under our belt, to win away from home.”
Wisconsin: If the Badgers start playing this well away from Madison consistently, their NCAA Tournament hopes could start getting a little more realistic. Wisconsin breezed without getting much from Ohio State transfer Micah Potter in his second game with the Badgers. After scoring 12 points in just over 12 minutes in an 83-64 triumph over Milwaukee last week, Potter went scoreless and committed four fouls in just seven minutes.
Tennessee: The Vols discovered just how tough life without Turner might get. They could be getting some help soon from Santiago Vescovi, a point guard from Uruguay who arrived on Tennessee’s campus this week and was on the bench Saturday as he awaits standard Southeastern Conference and NCAA clearance.
“Obviously we don’t have the same margin of error that we’ve had in the past, and then it kind of snowballs on you,” Barnes said. “I know these guys are going to compete and try to play hard but their decision-making’s got to get tenfold better.’’
Wisconsin hosts Rider on Tuesday.
Tennessee opens its SEC schedule Jan. 4 by hosting defending league champion LSU.