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Tennessee shoots past UT-Martin, 90-62

The first win of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Tenn-Martin at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee kicked off basketball season with a 90-62 win over Tennessee-Martin.

With a new look roster, the Vols came out sluggish to start this one. However, they can’t make any excuses, considering UT-Martin came out with 14 newcomers on their squad.

The Skyhawks were feisty in the opening half of play. They went toe to toe with Tennessee, making shot after shot and showing up on the defensive end as well. Through 15 minutes of play, Tennessee-Martin was shooting 61 percent from the field. That shooting created a tie at 26 each, and an uncomfortable Tennessee fanbase.

Auburn transfer Justin Powell was able to put some distance in between the two sides, hitting a three to make it 33-28 near the end of the first half. Victor Bailey hit another. Kennedy Chandler stuck his foot on the gas pedal to add 12 first half points, powering Tennessee to an eight point lead at halftime.

Tennessee shot 37 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range, but the defense was the issue that Rick Barnes had. Allowing Martin to hit well over half of their attempts from the field was the reason the Vols had a small lead at the halftime break, and it was undoubtedly a focus ahead of the second half.

Naturally, the Skyhawks cooled from the field to open the second half. Santiago Vescovi nailed his third three of the game to extend the Tennessee lead to 51-37. Justin Powell pushed the lead even further with his third three as well.

Kennedy Chandler kept shooting, and he kept hitting. He hit his fourth three on the night to give Tennessee a 20 point lead with just under ten minutes to play. The five-star freshman isn’t shy, as we saw in the exhibition, and he proved that once again tonight.

Olivier Nkamhoua joined the party late in the second half, jamming home a dunk and connecting on a hook shot. He was also the leading rebounder on the night for the Volunteers, grabbing 14.

Tennessee set the school record for three-pointers made in the game tonight. It was Brandon Huntley-Hatfield hitting the 17th of the night — and the first of his career. Rick Barnes has clearly evolved in his offensive philosophy after a bumpy year last season.

One thing of note — Tennessee played tonight without John Fulkerson in the lineup. Jonas Aidoo also did not play.

Chandler and Vescovi both finished with 20 points. Chandler shot 4-4 from three point range, while Vescovi connected on 6-11 from deep. Powell added 13 points in his Tennessee debut.

Tennessee is back in action on Sunday against ETSU (12 p.m. ET).