KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee has emerged as the favorite of the start of the Southeast Conference barely a week after the start of the competition.
The third volunteers (13-1, 2-0 SEC) outshot their first two opponents by a total of 70 points, while showing the depth that put them in the top-ranked squad of the SEC before Saturday's game. against Florida (9-5, 1-1).
In Tennessee, the SEC's two top scorers are forwards Grant Williams (18.8) and Admiral Schofield (18.0). Tennessee calls Williams and Schofield "peanut butter and jelly" because they complement each other so well, but Flights can flourish even when this duo is not as dynamic as usual.
The Flights won 87-63 in Missouri on Tuesday for their ninth consecutive win, while Williams scored just four points and shot 1 of 8 before collapsing. Tennessee led 42-31 at halftime. Williams and Schofield combined for only three points in the first half.
"I do not know since we were here if these two players played as badly in one period as these played against Missouri," said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. "Having teammates able to follow and follow him is obviously something that excites us all, knowing that we can continue to improve."
Kyle Alexander is averaging 13 points and 15.5 rebounds in SEC competition. Jordan Bowden, a starter last season, flourished in a bench role by scoring 20 points in consecutive games. Jordan Bone has averaged 17.2 points in his last five games, totaling 36 assists and just five turnovers.
"It just shows how bad we are and how much work we put in during the off season," said Alexander after the Missouri match. "Before, you had to look for the ball and all that, and then Grant and (Schofield) the ball. Now everyone can score.
Goalkeeper Lamonte, Turner, is back after missing six straight games with a left shoulder injury. Turner was named the co-sixth man of the SEC last season.
The Flights beat Georgia 96-50 and caught up to nine points ahead of Missouri in their two matches since Turner's return.
"It was so important to bring back Lamonte," said Barnes. "I think his presence on the pitch, his confidence, we can say that he, Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden were really stuck one in the other as they ran and made the ball move.
While Tennessee have eliminated their first two opponents from the SEC, each of the other three ranked teams in the league is already defeated in conference: No. 11 Auburn (11-3, 0-1), No. 14, State of Mississippi (12-2, 0-1) and No. 18 Kentucky (11-3, 1-1). Tennessee shared the regular season title with Auburn last year.
Mississippi (12-2, 2-0), South Carolina (7-7, 2-0) and LSU (11-3, 1-0) join Tennessee with undefeated SEC records.
"Watching Tennessee puts everything in perspective of what a great team looks like and what you hope to be," said Florida coach Michael White.
Barnes and White are in their fourth season in their respective schools. Florida participated in a regional final in 2017 and returned to the NCAA tournament last year. But the Gators have fought the offensive so far this year.
Florida has scored 60 points or less five times, losing four of those games, and is unlikely to win a high-performance affair. The defense has saved the Gators so far.
Florida is "probably one of the best defensive teams in the country," Barnes said.