KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Behind four double-figure scorers, Tennessee grabbed a 78-63 opening-night victory over UNC Asheville Tuesday in Thompson-Boling Arena.
After the Bulldogs (0-1) scored on their first possession of the second half, the Vols (1-0) proceeded to go on a 15-1 run to extend their lead to 20 points. UNC Asheville was held without a field goal for 5:31, as they were 0-of-5 from the field during the stretch.
Lamonte Turner helped Tennessee close out its first win of the season with 10 of his game-high 17 points coming in the second half. He also led the Vols with six assists.
Fellow upperclassman Yves Pons posted a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting while also tying his career-high with three blocks. He helped Tennessee control the glass, snagging seven rebounds.
Pons was one of five Vols who collected six or more rebounds in the game, as the team finished with 49 boards, including 17 offensive rebounds. John Fulkerson tallied a game-high nine rebounds, as he nearly finished with a double-double (10 points).
One of those players who finished with six or more rebounds was Jalen Johnson, who like Pons had a career night against the Bulldogs. Johnson finished the game with a career-high eight points, career-high six rebounds and he tied his career-high with a pair of assists.
Tuesday’s lid-lifter was a one-possession game through the first six minutes of action, then the Vols clamped down defensively as UNC Asheville was held without a point for a stretch of 5:36. During that time, Tennessee went on a 9-0 run, taking an 18-10 lead with 11:09 left in the first half.
Tennessee extended the lead to as many as 14 points in the first half before taking a 36-28 advantage into the locker room.
Vols freshman Oliver Nkamhoua emphatically closed out the half when he received a pass from Fulkerson along the baseline and threw it down with two hands as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the first half.
CLEANING THE GLASS: Tennessee finished the game with a 49-29 rebounding edge, the largest single-game rebounding margin (+20) of the Rick Barnes era. On the defensive glass, the Vols were +14, as they tallied 32 defense rebounds to UNC Asheville’s 18.
Gaines led the newcomers in scoring with nine points and also grabbed three rebounds. Nkahouma had seven points and seven rebounds, while James started and scored two points, grabbed six rebounds and had two assists.
In his 14th career start, Pons had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting with three blocks. Propelled by two 3-pointers, Johnson had eight points in a career-high 23 minutes played.
UP NEXT: Before traveling to Toronto for the James Naismith Classic, where the Vols face Washington, the Vols host Murray State on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 9 p.m. ET at Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will air on SEC Network.