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Tennessee 83 Austin Peay 54 - Slow Start, Fast Finish

As season openers go, this was about what you'd expect (unless you're #19 Mississippi State, who got routed at home by Rider 88-74).  The Vols relied on a couple of patented BruceBall spurts, including a 13-0 run, to build a comfortable lead on the Governors of Austin Peay in the early going, but suffered a late lapse at the end of the first half that closed the margin to just five points at the break, 31-26.

Tyler Smith ensured there would be no lapse to start the second half:  the Vol senior scored the first six points after the break and made plays on the defensive end as well, giving the Vols a double digit lead.  And when Cameron Tatum got hot from beyond the arc, Tennessee pushed the game out of reach.

The Vols' advantage in athleticism and experience paid off in padding the lead late, as UT outscored Austin Peay 52-28 in the second half.  And while there were familiar moments both good and bad - the return of the press and its ability to create turnovers (19 for AP), as well as a reliance on three point shooting early, even when they weren't dropping - in the second half, there were plenty of encouraging moments as well.

All of us hoping that Scotty Hopson had grown into a more complete player saw what we wanted to see in his first game this season:  16 points on 6 of 8 shooting, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.  Hopson's shot has less rainbow-effect to it this season, and it was working tonight.  Hopson was also the beneficiary of an alley-oop from Cameron Tatum, who was right behind him with 15 points on 6 of 9, 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.

The rest of the three point shooting wasn't so hot - the remaining Vols went 3 of 11 - but if those two can carry that load this well every night, the Vols will be in great shape.  The overall team percentage was way up from last year's frustrating 31.5%, with UT shooting 43.5% tonight.  That cushions the blow, a little, from a 5 of 11 night at the free throw line.  Like I said, much familiar.

But much that's familiar is also good:  double-doubles from Tyler Smith (14 and 11) and Wayne Chism (11 and 10) gave the Vols four players in double figures and a +15 margin on the glass.  As for the new took them awhile to get going, and they all showed the positives and negatives you'd expect in their first game.  Melvin Goins had 5 points, 4 assists and 2 steals, and played well defensively.  Skylar McBee and the TBA crowd couldn't will any of his four three point attempts in, but this kid had three rebounds, three assists and two steals, and will dive after a loose ball.  His shot will fall sooner than later.  Kenny Hall had moments where he looked lost early, but had a strong second half to finish with 4 points and 4 rebounds.

A little sloppy, a few lapses, but enough talent and experience to pull away in the second half.  If the Vols can find more of those 13-0 spurts in them, and if Hopson and Tatum continue to play this well from beyond the arc, this team will go far in reminding Vol fans of BruceBall teams of the past, and will combine well with Tyler & Wayne inside to eventually make a solid team of the present.  Game two is Tuesday night against UNC-Asheville.