The No. 13 Volunteers (7-2, 0-0) needed a big win after their tough loss to the Red Raiders earlier in the week and sure enough, they got win in Saturday’s 76-36 victory over the University of North Carolina-Greensboro Spartans (7-3, 0-0).
Tennessee’s defense forced 25 turnovers on the night compared to 17 made baskets while Josiah Jordan-James and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield tied for the team lead with 12 points as the Vols made it look for the majority of the afternoon.
Tennessee won the tip, but it was UNCG who made the game’s first bucket to take a 2-0 lead a couple of minutes into the game. The Vols quickly took the lead away, however, as Santiago Vescovi drained a three to make it a 3-2 game on the next possession. Olivier Nkamhoua proceeded to hit one from downtown on the Vols’ next possession and the Vols led, 6-2, with 17:25 to go in the first period.
It took a couple of minutes before any more points were scored and it was Victor Bailey’s three-pointer that made it a 9-2 game. The Vols were already 3-of-4 from beyond the arc after going 6-of-40 in their previous game against Texas Tech.
Tennessee pushed its lead to 11-2 before the Spartans broke their nearly-five minute scoring drought with a three-pointer of their own. Huntley-Hatfield immediately responded with a layup of his own to put the Vols up, 13-5. Another jumper pushed Tennessee’s lead to double-digits at 15-5 with 11:29 left in the first period.
But a 6-0 UNCG run over the next few minutes cut the Vols’ lead to 15-11. The Spartans had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but the Vols forced a turnover and were able to get two points off the mistake as Huntely-Hatfield made the layup to increase Tennessee’s lead to 17-11. Turnovers were a major problem for the Spartans at this point, evidenced by their seven turnovers compared to their five made shots.
The Spartans’ turnovers continued and the Vols continued to rack up the points because of them. Tennessee eventually compiled a 13-0 run over 3-1/2 minutes to make it a 28-11 game with 3:55 left in the first period. Tennessee had nine assists compared to UNCG’s one, four turnovers to their 12, and 14 points off the bench opposed to the Spartans’ six. Vescovi led the team with six points and tied Kenny Chandler for the team lead with three assists so far on the day.
The Spartans ended Tennessee’s run on their first possession coming out of the break, but Jordan-James kept them at arms reach with a three a few possessions later. The Vols would finish out the half with an 18-point lead as the scoreboard read, 33-15, heading into halftime.
UNCG got the scoring started off in the second half with a layup to make it a 33-17 game, but the Vols responded with a three-pointer on the very next possession, just like the start of the first half. That three sparked an 8-0 run, which allowed Tennessee to increase its lead to 41-17 before a De’Monte Buckingham drained one from the corner to cut the Vols’ lead down to 41-20 with 17:53 left in the game.
Both teams combined for 13 points over the next five minutes as Tennessee’s lead continued to stay in the 20s. Tennessee eventually passed it’s game-high lead of 24 points as Zakai Zeigler knocked down a three to make it a 55-28 game with 9:41 to go.
The lead eventually surpassed 30, as the scoreboard read, 59-28 with a little under eight minutes left in the game. Another Zeigler three pushed the lead to 62-28 and at this point, the Spartans needed a miracle if they even wanted to make it a competitive game.
That miracle never came as the Vols continued to establish their dominance en route to the 76-36 win. The Vols now have seven wins on the season as they enter their final three games before conference play begins.
Tennessee hosts the USC Upstate Spartans for its next matchup. That game will tipoff on Tuesday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. ET.
You can check out the final score and stats here.