'In Those Moments, I Get in a Zone': Turner Recalls Final Shot vs. VCU

Cory Sanning

Ask Lamonte Turner what it's like to consistently knock down clutch shots in big moments and you'll likely get a straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense type of answer. 

After all, the senior guard has had plenty of practice.

"In those moments, I get in a zone."

Turner found that zone once again on Saturday in Destin, Florida as Tennessee was looking to close out VCU in the third-place game of the Emerald Coast Classic. 

With 1.7 seconds left in regulation, the Vols had the ball in a tie game after the Rams' De'riante Jenkins knocked down the game-tying three with just seconds remaining.

It was Turner who would have the last word, however, draining a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the corner as time expired to give UT a walk-off win, spoiling VCU's bid for a late comeback. 

The shot marked Turner's third game winner of his collegiate career and first that did not come at the expense of John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats. 

Regardless of the opponent, Turner's process during those moments does not change. Whether against ranked or unranked competition, the Florence, Alabama native is able to tune out all of the noise with one goal in mind: to make a play.

"I don't really think about what I'm doing or what is going on in the game necessarily," Turner said. "At that moment, I'm just trying to make a play for my team and honestly I just kind of get locked in and it just kind of happens."

Those happenings have become quite a familiar sight for Tennessee fans in recent years.

While he has gone through difficult shooting stretches since injuring his shoulder prior to last season, Turner's confidence and faith in his ability has not wavered. The feeling is reciprocated through his head coach as well.

Rick Barnes has drawn up several game-winning plays throughout his tenure at Tennessee, but Saturday's may have been the most unique of the bunch. 

Turns out, the play wasn't originally designed for Turner to wind up with the last shot. Barnes left freshman guard Josiah-Jordan James with two options: either find John Fulkerson at the rim or get the ball to Turner after he makes his break from the defender.

"It's a tough play for the defense because they are thinking that they are going to go to the basket, they are going to try and get fouled or drive it some way," Barnes said. "But Lamonte made the call to get to the corner, that was his read."

Turns out, Turner's read was a good one. 

Despite shooting a career-low 27 percent from beyond the arc through the opening seven games of the season, his play at the point guard position has him among the nation's leaders in assists.

He's gone for double figures in that department twice this season and his success as a passer is beginning to carry over.

Barnes' vision may not have featured one designated shooter, but the Vols' frequent use of that same set throughout the offseason gave Turner all of the confidence he needed. 

"Coach (Barnes) drew up a play we ran frequently in the summer and in preseason," Turner said. "We knew they were probably going to switch so me and Jordan (Bowden) acted like we were coming together, hoping they would pre-switch and one of us would be open."

Turner's veteran savvy and knowledge of VCU's defense may have also played a factor in what transpired. 

Relying on the muscle between his ears to read the play, Turner immediately recognized an error on the Rams' part and took advantage of it. The rest can simply be contributed to muscle memory.

"I came off the bottom of the baseline off a screen, I saw they didn't switch correctly and I knew I would be able to get some space," Turner said. "I did and I was able to get the shot off."

21st-ranked Tennessee (6-1) is back in action on Wednesday night as the Vols host Florida A&M at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.

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