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Tennessee cruises past UNC-Asheville, 78-64

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The Vols move to 1-0.

NCAA Basketball: NC-Asheville at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

A new era of Tennessee basketball debuted tonight in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Volunteers — down Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone and Kyle Alexander, moved on tonight, facing UNC-Asheville to begin their 2019-20 season.

Early on, it was a few veterans leading the way. Jordan Bowden, John Fulkerson and Yves Pons got the Vols started on Tuesday night. Pons hit a three, while Bowden and Fulkerson scored at the rim early in the first half.

Tennessee built a 15-10 lead at the halfway point of the first half, knocking off some rust in the process. The Vols were running early, beating the Bulldogs to the rim with ease. Jalen Johnson and Lamonte Turner added three balls of their own to push the Tennessee lead to three points with nine minutes remaining in the half.

Olivier Nkamhoua was the first freshman off the bench, checking in for John Fulkerson. The freshman from Finland was active early on, getting a bucket and drawing a foul. Davonte Gaines also entered the game at the 12 minute mark. ‘Ticket’ scored his first points as a Vol tonight on a put-back attempt off of a miss from Nkamhoua.

Asheville took advantage of Tennessee’s sloppy play in the first half, however. Lavar Batts Jr. paced the Bulldogs with nine early points, taking advantage of 12 first half turnovers from Tennessee.

The Vols led 36-28 at the break. Bowden led Tennessee with eight points. Turner and Pons followed with seven.

Tennessee attacked the rim to open the second half. It was Yves Pons with a slam, then Jordan Bowden with a bucket to start the next period. Josiah James hit a smooth mid-range jumper after that, pushing the Tennessee lead to 12.

Lavar Batts Jr. then picked up back to back fouls on the defensive end on the same possession, forcing UNC-Asheville’s best player to the bench.

In that stretch, a Pons put-back, a Jalen Johnson three then a Lamonte Turner steal and bucket blew this game wide open. A somewhat competitive game was suddenly turned into a 20 point Tennessee lead as the turnover numbers began to even out. Pons kept the pedal to the floor pushing his total to 15 points before the halfway mark of the second half.

Ticket cashed in his first career three pointer with 10 minutes left to play, pushing the Tennessee lead back out to 20. The freshman wing seemed firmly in the rotation, looking good in spurts for the Volunteers tonight. Gained back that up with a really nice assist — then a slam — and a technical foul. Rick Barnes wasn’t too pleased with the tech, but it was a solid debut from Ticket.

Bowden kept attacking the rim, throwing lobs to John Fulkerson to maintain Tennessee’s lead. Lamonte Turner picked it up late, becoming the Vols’ leading scorer on the night in the process.

Tennessee went on cruise control from there, finishing this one off for a 78-64 win.

The Volunteers cut the turnovers down from 12 to just four in the second half, cleaning things up a bit. Tennessee held a 25 point advantage until the final couple of minutes of the game.

Final Stats

Turner: 17 points, 6 assists, 6 turnovers

Bowden: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 turovers

Pons: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks

James: 2 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers

Gaines: 9 points, 3 rebounds

Nkamhoua: 7 points, 6 rebounds

Fulkerson: 10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists

Johnson: 8 points, 6 rebounds