KNOXVILLE — Lamonte Turner’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knock off then-No. 20 VCU on Saturday in the Emerald Coast Classic was another heroic moment in a career defined by them.
It was also an instance of redemption a day after the redshirt senior guard was the catalyst for a sloppy offensive performance that included 21 Tennessee turnovers in a loss to Florida State.
“Lamonte turned it over a lot where he was trying to do too much,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Monday. “We were telling him that he has to trust his teammates. … That is what he has to get better with. I know he is leading us in turnovers and he shouldn’t. He is too good of a player to have whatever he is averaging in turnovers per game.
“He is a guy that you count on to take care of the ball, and he owned up to it. He told the guys at halftime and after the game that it was his fault.”
Turner turned it over eight times versus Florida State and five times against VCU in Niceville, Florida — his third and fourth games with five or more turnovers this season.
The Florence, Alabama, native, and No. 21 Tennessee (6-1) in general, will attempt to take better care of the ball when it faces Florida A&M (0-6) today (TV: SEC Network, 7 p.m.) inside Thompson-Boling Arena.
UT is averaging 16.3 turnovers per game when Turner turns it over five times or more compared to 10.3 when he stays under that total.
“I took that loss (to Florida State) on the head because I felt like I put us in a hole early,” Turner said. “We’ve got younger guys, guys that aren’t as experienced, so you don’t want to do that. Being a senior leader on this team, I don’t want to put my guys in a position to have to fight early in the game. So, I feel like that could change if I play better to start the game, and we have a better chance.
“It definitely hurt, knowing how we played on defense, but it’s also something good to look at, because we know we can play defense on some of the better teams in the country.”
The Vols limited the Seminoles to 60 points on 35.2% shooting, continuing what has been a strong defensive start to the season, but miscues stunted their offense, which made 14 field goals during the 3-point loss.
“We reached a lot of our goals in the first game defensively, but we lost the games because we turned it over and allowed 24 points,” Barnes said. “I’d like for them to know, and we’ll point it out again to them today, that when we do execute the things that we practice, we play pretty well.”
Turner is the difference between an efficient Tennessee offense and an erratic one, and his decision making is highlighted because a nagging right shoulder injury is causing his field goal percentage to crater — he is shooting 30.6% from the floor this season after making 39.5% of his shots in his first three years.
One loss to a team that entered the AP Top 25 on Monday is no cause for concern, but an inconsistent ability to take care of the ball may be later down the road when the Vols are playing teams of that ilk on a nightly basis.
“Those games come down to one possession, that’s just how close they are,” Turner said. “We could’ve easily been 0-2 or 2-0 down there, so just learning how all of the small details affect winning is big for us as a team and good for our younger guys.”