No. 10 Tennessee beats Austin Peay 83-54
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The return of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl’s signature speedy, full-court press got off to a slow start.
The Volunteers finally found their groove after halftime, and Scotty Hopson scored 16 points to lead No. 10 Tennessee to an 83-54 victory over Austin Peay on Friday night.
“We’ve just got to stay consistent,” said Cameron Tatum, who scored 15 off the bench. “We’re a very unselfish program, and I think we’re starting to get a grasp on that. Once it all comes together like we’re supposed to, it’s going to be special.”
Coaching a young squad through a rebuilding season, Pearl slowed down the game last year. That should change with returning players accounting for 95.4 percent of Tennessee’s scoring.
The Vols were sloppy and slow in the first half against the Governors (0-1), going 43.3 percent from the field. They ramped up their pressing defense, though, wearing down Austin Peay in the second half and helping to create scoring opportunities.
The Vols out-rebounded the Governors 27-15 and shot 53.8 percent after the break.
The Governors managed only 34.5 percent from the field in the game and turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 22 Tennessee points.
“They obviously wore us down with their size and athletic ability,” Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said. “I was pleased with the way we made a little run at the end of the first half. We just couldn’t come out in the second half and get anything going.”
Tennessee led by only six at halftime, and preseason All-SEC pick Tyler Smith encouraged his fellow Vols to face the second half as if they were down by 10 points.
They scored the first nine out of the break, and Tatum’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 43-27 with 14:28 to go.
“We got great leadership from Tyler Smith. Tyler Smith played outstanding tonight. He made great energy,” Pearl said. “I was really, really pleased with his effort, his effectiveness, his leadership, his attitude.”
Smith finished with 14 and 11 rebounds, and Wayne Chism had 11 points and 10 boards.
Anthony Campbell led a young Austin Peay team with 17 points. Wesley Channels added 13 and Tyrone Caldwell had 11. The Governors rank eighth in the nation for fewest upperclassmen.
Tennessee went on a 15-0 run in the middle of the first half, thanks to some help from Smith’s defensive rebounding. Hopson hit two 3-pointers, and Chism’s layup gave the Vols a 27-10 lead with 7:12 before halftime.
The Governors answered with a 13-2 run. Caldwell scored eight during the stretch, and Wesley Channels sank a fast-break layup with 24 seconds left to cut Tennessee’s lead to 31-25.
“Obviously coach Pearl said something to them in the locker room. They came out and had a great start to the second half,” Campbell said. “I hate halftime because if we had that same momentum we would have probably stayed with them at the start of the second half.”
Tennessee is 5-0 in season openers under Pearl, and the Vols’ average margin of victory in those games is 27.8 points. Pearl now has 99 wins with the Volunteers.
Loos is in his 20th season leading the Governors. With 314 wins, he’s six victories shy of becoming the Ohio Valley Conference’s all-time winningest coach.
“I think we showed some good things,” Loos said. “Tennessee is as-advertised for the whole game.”