Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden are no strangers to the big stage. Their journey to get back to that point began in dazzling fashion on Wednesday.
Hosting Eastern New Mexico for its annual preseason exhibition, Tennessee had no problem overcoming early-game jitters that plagued it at times last season.
Turner scored 23 points and Bowden added 22 as the Vols quickly turned what looked to be a close matchup early into an emphatic win, throttling the Greyhounds 107-59 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
John Fulkerson tallied a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and freshman Josiah-Jordan James reached double figures with 10 points off the bench.
The win marked the ninth consecutive exhibition victory for UT under head coach Rick Barnes and extended Tennessee’s overall win streak in that department to 20 games.
Barnes, however, was more focused on the development of his two leaders following the game, which includes eliminating the 10 combined turnovers between them.
"Those two guys have worked as hard as anybody since we've been here and we need them to have big years," Barnes said. "They're going to do their part but other than the turnovers, I was happy with their effort."
Overmatched from the outset, the Greyhounds did their best to keep it close early, but Tennessee’s talent was ultimately too much for them to overcome as the Vols methodically began to impose their will.
While UT’s newcomers were impressive for short stretches, it was the play of its senior guard tandem that made all the difference.
For Turner, however, the frustration with losing his control of the ball heavily outweighed any possible satisfaction from scoring it.
"We scored the ball, we did a good job of that and ran the offense well," Turner said. "But we have to clean up those turnovers being the two leaders (on the team)."
After playing under Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield for three seasons, both Turner and Bowden expressed their enthusiasm over their increased roles and that was evident from the opening tip.
Following a couple of quick baskets by Fulkerson to knock off the rust, Turner slowly began to work into his groove with a couple of layups. Before anyone could blink, he was knocking down 3-pointers.
He also handled his business at the free-throw line, missing just one of his attempts from the charity stripe.
The same could be said for Bowden.
Despite going scoreless for nearly seven minutes, the Knoxville, Tennessee native found his rhythm rather quickly, scoring 12 points over the course of the final 14 minutes of the first half.
His onslaught didn’t end there, either.
It was the second half in which the 6’5 Bowden would impose his will.
Tallying 10 points during the final 20 minutes through an array of jumpers, layups and dunks, the Carter High School product was back in the comfort zone that made him a leading candidate for SEC Sixth Man of the Year last season.
It's also one of the reasons that the younger guards try to follow both he and Turner's example.
"They know that they're our leaders. If you could see them practice, I knew they'd be prepared," James said. "They play well on both ends of the floor."
A five-star recruit coming of out high school, it's Bowden and Turner's example that James and the rest of the team continues to follow as the regular season is set to begin.
"They set an example for everybody on the team...we just have to feed off their energy and pick them up whenever they're down."