The UNC-Asheville Bulldogs were greeted at Thompson-Boling Arena with a dizzying array of 3-pointers, dunks and broken records on Tuesday night. Tennessee looked sharp while cruising to a 124-49 victory. The win was Bruce Pearl's 100th since arriving in Knoxville prior to the 2005-06 season.
Tennessee had built a 20-0 lead before the Bulldogs scored on a Terrence Turner free throw with 14:53 remaining in the first half. The visitors missed their first 19 shots before Turner connected on the team's first field goal with 3:08 left in the half.
Our first half defense was as good as I've seen in awhile. Bruce Pearl, UT head coach Tennessee scored a school record 66 first-half points, while Asheville had just 14. The Bulldogs shot a putrid 7.7 percent during the opening 20 minutes.
In stark contrast to Asheville, Scotty Hopson just couldn't miss. The sophomore guard was 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half and made his first six shots from behind the arc. Hopson finished with 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
When all was said and done, the Vols broke the school record for points scored (124) and assists (34), and tied the record for 3-pointers made (16).
Despite the gaudy offensive numbers, defense was the key for Tennessee. The Vols utilized the full court press early in the first half, and it caused trouble for Asheville's guards. As a result, the Bulldogs turned the ball over 16 times in the first half.
"Our first half defensive effort was as good as I've seen in awhile," said Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl. "We made some really good plays in pressure early that got us on a run. We played unselfish basketball."
Tennessee's point guard combo of Bobby Maze and Melvin Goins contributed greatly to the win. Maze and Goins combined for 12 assists and Goins added five steals.
One of Maze's seven assists came on a spectacular fast break play when Mazed scooped up a loose ball, sprinted down court and flipped a pass off the backboard. J.P. Prince followed and dunked it.
The only column the Vols did not dominate on the stat sheet was rebounds. The two teams both pulled down 44 boards.
"Rebounding is an issue and it's got to be corrected or it's gonna be a tremendous limiter for us," Pearl said. "Our inside guys have got to be more dominant. They gotta initiate contact, clear out the lane, otherwise we're gonna be really challenged."
Later this week, the Vols travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands to compete in the Paradise Jam Tournament in St. Thomas. Tennessee will take on East Carolina Friday afternoon with later match-ups in the tournament to be determined.