Senior guards Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner Jr. combined for 27 points as Tennessee extended the nation’s longest home-court win streak with a season-opening 78-63 victory over UNC-Asheville on Tuesday night in Knoxville, Tenn.
It was the 27th straight win at Thompson-Boling Arena for the Volunteers (1-0) dating back to January 2018.
A Sweet 16 team a season ago, Tennessee lost 70 percent of its scoring from that 31-win squad to either graduation or the NBA draft. Bowden and Turner were the only returners to average double figures last season, and they carried that over in the opener.
Turner finished with 17 points and six assists while Bowden had 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Tennessee also got a career-high 15 points from junior forward Yves Pons, who was 6 of 8 from the field and added six rebounds, while redshirt junior forward John Fulkerson had 10 points and eight boards.
It was far from a perfect performance for the Vols, who turned it over 14 times including 11 in the first half. Those miscues negated a 30-12 rebounding edge before halftime, resulting in just a 36-28 lead at the break.
UNCA (0-1) cut the deficit to six 21 seconds into the second half before Tennessee went on a 15-1 run to end any thought of an upset. A layup by Turner with 14:50 left, part of a 7-0 run in just 29 seconds of game time, gave the Vols a 51-31 lead with 14:50 to go.
Redshirt sophomore guard LJ Thorpe led UNCA with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting while redshirt sophomore guard Lavar Batts Jr., a North Carolina State transfer, had 11 — including the first seven for the Bulldogs.
Tennessee was sloppy with the ball early, turning it over three times in the first 95 seconds as UNCA went with a full-court press. The Vols eventually figured things out and after six lead changes went up 11-10 on a Fulkerson jumper with 15:40 left in the first half.
That started a 9-0 run, with UNCA going 5:36 without scoring while missing eight straight shots.
The Vols led 34-20 with 2:08 to go in the opening half before the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run, with freshman guard Trent Stephney canning a 3 with 20 seconds left to get within 34-28.
—Field Level Media