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Fulkerson, Tennessee rough up Ole Miss

Associated Press • Jan 22, 2020 at 1:59 AM

KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee men’s basketball team continued its recent surge by playing the stingy defense that has carried the Vols for much of the season.

Slumping Mississippi certainly had no answers for it.

John Fulkerson scored a career-high 18 points and matched a career high with 10 rebounds, and Tennessee trounced Mississippi 73-48 on Tuesday night to hand the Rebels their sixth consecutive loss.

Ole Miss shot just 30.2% (19 of 63) against a Tennessee team that entered the night leading the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense (59.6) and field-goal percentage defense (.382).

“That’s really something we can pride ourselves on,” said Fulkerson, a native of Kingsport. “If shots aren’t falling, we can still lock down defensively. I think we have done a much better job on the defensive end, but I think we still have a long, long ways to go.”

Tennessee (12-6, 4-2) won for the fourth time in five games.

“We got outclassed in every phase,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said.

Fulkerson scored 16 of his points in the first half as Tennessee built a 42-23 lead. The Rebels (9-9, 0-5) shot just 24.2% overall (8 of 33) and 18.2% from 3-point range (2 of 11) over the first 20 minutes.

Ole Miss scored the first four points of the second half to get the margin down to 15, but Tennessee answered with a 12-3 run and never looked back.

The Vols have played particularly good defense in two games since an 80-63 loss at Georgia. Tennessee bounced back by winning 66-45 at Vanderbilt, the Commodores shooting 0-for-25 from 3-point range to end a streak of 1,080 straight games with at least one 3-point basket.

Tennessee followed that up with another dominant defensive performance.

“They’re communicating better,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “They’re talking better.”

Yves Pons scored just six points but blocked three shots. Pons has blocked a shot in 18 straight games, the longest streak by a Tennessee player since C.J. Black also had a block in 18 straight games from January 1998 to November 1998. Black’s streak spanned parts of two seasons.

Jordan Bowden and Josiah-Jordan James each scored 11 points for The Vols. Olivier Nkamhoua had 10 points.

The Rebels’ Breein Tyree scored 18 points but shot just 7-for-22.

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“Before the game, I ate Lucky Charms for the first time maybe ever before a game,” Fulkerson said as he joked about the reason for his fast start. “I was just a little hungry so I just had a little bowl of Lucky Charms. I think the luck did work. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that, and it’s the first time I ever scored that many points in the first half probably throughout my whole career. I might be onto something, eating Lucky Charms before a game.”

UP NEXT

Tennessee plays at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

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