NICEVILLE, Fla. — Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes saved a timeout in the waning seconds against Virginia Commonwealth, allowing the Vols to get to the frontcourt and inbound the ball with 1.7 seconds remaining in a tie game. And he knew he had a player he could count on in that situation.
Lamonte Turner hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer from the right corner, giving 17th-ranked Tennessee a 72-69 win over No. 20 VCU in the Emerald Coast Classic third-place game on Saturday.
“He’s got a feel for it,” Barnes said. “He’s competitive. That’s what we always thought his biggest talent is. He’s competitive, spirited, and he’s not afraid to make the play in that kind of situation. There’s no doubt that in late-game situations, it’s not as much about plays as it is about players.”
VCU’s De’Riante Jenkins hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left to tie the game at 69. After the timeout, the Tennessee point guard took a pass from James Joshua-Jordan and got off the shot as the clock ran out.
“I leaned back so I could see the rim,” Turner said. “I knew it was good the second it left my hand.”
Turner’s shot spoiled a dramatic comeback by the Rams (6-2), who trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half.
John Fulkerson led Tennessee (6-1) with 17 points and seven rebounds. Jordan Bowden added 14 points and Turner had 12.
Marcus Santos-Silva led VCU with 22 points and Jenkins had 15.
VCU trailed 37-26 at the half but chipped away and took its first lead of the second half on a jumper by KeShawn Curry at 58-56 with 6:42 to go.
Fulkerson put Tennessee ahead 69-66 by blocking a shot, grabbing a rebound and then hitting a pair of free throws after he was fouled, setting up the clutch 3-pointers in the final seconds.
WE’LL MEET AGAIN
Three of the four top-tier teams in this year’s Emerald Coast Classic will participate in another holiday tournament next November. Tennessee, Florida State and VCU will be part of an eight-team field in the Charleston Classic in South Carolina. Oklahoma State, Penn State, Houston, Seton Hall and the College of Charleston round out the field. Purdue will play in the 2020 Cancun Challenge against Clemson, Mississippi State and Illinois State.
After a home game against Florida A&M on Wednesday, the Vols entertain No. 16 Memphis. Their schedule also includes a visit to Cincinnati and a home game against Wisconsin before Southeastern Conference play begins in January.