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No. 6 Tennessee defeats Tusculum in exhibition action

Tusculum's Dillon Smith scored 12 points in leading the Pioneers against No. 6 Tennessee (photo by Chuck Williams)
Tusculum's Dillon Smith scored 12 points in leading the Pioneers against No. 6 Tennessee (photo by Chuck Williams)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --- Reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams scored 15 points as sixth-ranked Tennessee defeated Tusculum 87-49 in an exhibition game Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Jordan Bowden added 16 points for the Vols, who are the defending SEC co-regular season champions and tournament runner-up. The Vols shot 54.9 percent (28-for-51) from the field, including 8-for-16 from three-point range, and forced the Pioneers into 25 turnovers which they converted into 28 points.

Dillon Smith led Tusculum with 12 points and was the lone Pioneer to reach double figures in the game. Tusculum shot 34 percent (16-for-47) from the floor and were outrebounded 37-25 by Tennessee, but did force the Vols into 16 turnovers.

Williams shot 5-for-10 from the field and 5-for-7 from the foul line for the Vols, while Bowden had a pair of three-pointers among his 5-for-7 performance from the floor and connected on all four of his foul shots. The Vols never trailed and shot nearly 61 percent from the field in the second half as they tuned up for their regular-season opener against another South Atlantic Conference school in Lenoir-Rhyne on Tuesday night.

The Vols scored the first eight points of the game as a three-pointer by Admiral Schofield was followed by a three-pointer and two free throws by Bowden. Tusculum got on the board on a Smith three-pointer with 16:45 left in the half, but a 12-0 run by the Vols which featured four points each from Bowden and Williams pushed the UT lead to 20-5 at the midway point of the half.

Tusculum was held without a field goal for more than 11 1/2 minutes before a jumper by Austin Hall cut the Tennessee lead to 27-9 with 6:34 to play in the half. Smith added a layup and a three-pointer in the final four minutes of the half, but the Vols scored the last nine points to carry a 42-14 lead to intermission.

The Pioneers shot just 5-for-20 (25 percent) from the field in the first half compared to 50 percent (14-for-28) for the Volunteers. Tusculum turned the ball over 16 times in the opening half. Smith accounted for 10 of the Pioneers' 14 points in the opening half, while Bowden had nine points and Williams eight to lead the Vols.

The Tusculum offense awoke in the second half, as a three-point play by Trenton Gibson and back-to-back buckets from Smith and Brandon Mitchell helped the Pioneers pull within 47-23 with 16:09 left. The margin was 58-33 following a three-pointer by Adrian Cohen with 11:42 remaining, but the Vols went on a 9-2 run to go ahead 67-35 on a three-point play by Williams with 8:48 left.

With 2:01 to play, a three-pointer by the Pioneers' Zack Dixon brought Tusculum to within 77-45, but the Vols' bench finished the game with a 10-3 run as the margin grew to as large as 41 points in the final minute.

Smith shot 4-for-6 from the field in the game for the Pioneers, hitting both of his three-point attempts, and went 2-for-2 at the foul line. Caleb Hodnett chipped in with seven points and four rebounds, with Donovan Donaldson adding six points and three assists. Mitchell had a game-high three steals off the bench for Tusculum, which had 10 steals as a team in the game.

While Bowden and Williams were the only Vols to reach double figures, Tennessee had a balanced attack as Schofield contributed nine points and four rebounds, Jordan Bone had eight points and five boards and Kyle Alexander added seven points and six rebounds. Off the bench, Derrick Walker had eight points and a game-high seven rebounds, with six points each from Yves Pons and Jalen Johnson. John Fulkerson led all players with five assists and had four points and four boards in 16 minutes.

Tennessee went 23-for-30 from the foul line in the game, including 14-for-19 in the second half, while Tusculum hit 11 of its 19 free-throw attempts. The Vols outscored the Pioneers 30-20 in the paint and had a 13-4 edge in second-chance points.

Tusculum, which lost its exhibition opener 96-47 at Arkansas last Friday, will play its third and final exhibition game against a Division I opponent on Thursday night at the University of Cincinnati. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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