No. 3 Tennessee heavily favored against Tennessee Tech
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The only drama in Knoxville, Tenn., these week involved No. 3 Tennessee not moving up to the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings behind Duke after No. 1 Kansas lost at Arizona State last week.
The Volunteers (10-1) stayed at No. 3, leapfrogged by Michigan, which moved ahead of them to No. 2. While Tennessee fans are irate, coach Rick Barnes and his team continue to take their productive season thus far in stride.
Tennessee took its Christmas break after beating Wake Forest 83-64 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville last Saturday. They resume play Saturday against Tennessee Tech (4-8) at home.
Reassuring to Barnes and his players against Wake Forest was the fact that the Volunteers rolled even though star player Admiral Schofield had only two points at halftime. It was not a major issue with Tennessee's deep roster.
Grant Williams scored 17 first-half points and finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Schofield, Kyle Alexander and Jordan Bone came through in the second half. Alexander scored a career-high 19 points shooting 9 of 10 from the field while grabbing eight rebounds. Bone had 18 points and Schofield scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
"We have a lot of guys on our team that can score," Alexander said. "We probably worked the hardest I've seen us work in this last offseason. Everybody wants to get better and achieve the team goals. We have a lot of guys who can go out there and score every single night and who can get it done.
"I think we are pretty deep."
Tennessee's scoring spree "was a byproduct of our defense," Barnes said. The Vols held Wake Forest to 40.7 percent shooting and 21.7 percent from 3-point range. The Vols shot better than 50 percent from the field for the eighth time in 11 games.
"When guys are just locked in like that, we are a really hard team to beat," Bone said. "When we know what our ultimate goal is together as a unit, we are a hard team to beat. We are going to continue to take those strides and take those steps so we can be the team we want to be."
Tennessee Tech is 1-23 alltime against Tennessee with the lone win occurring in 1996 in Knoxville.
The Golden Eagles started 1-7, including big losses to North Carolina (108-58) and Michigan State (101-33) in Las Vegas last month in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
They have won three of their last four games, including a 91-80 win over Savannah State on Dec. 20 heading into Christmas break. They avenged a 97-83 loss at Savannah State on Nov. 13.
"We did some really good things tonight to give us a chance," head coach Steve Payne said after the game. "We took care of the ball. The last time we played them we had 23 turnovers and gave up 24 offensive rebounds. They're quick. They play a unique style.
"I thought we did a very good job of controlling the tempo and pace of the game, attacking the rim and getting fouled."
Redshirt freshman guard Hunter Vick finished with 22 points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals with four 3-pointers. The Camden, Tenn., native became the first Tech freshman since Bruce Oglesby in 1990-91 to post at least four 20-point outings.
Updated December 28, 2018