Tennessee opens season with easy win at home

KNOXVILLE, Tenn-Tennessee gave up the first basket of the game and wouldn’t allow Presbyterian to score again for nearly 10 minutes.

By the time the Blue Hose finally recovered, Tennessee had put the game well out of reach.

Admiral Schofield scored 22 points to match a career high Friday night as the Volunteers went on an early 28-0 run and breezed to an 88-53 season-opening victory.

“It was really a good team win,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Everyone went in and I thought had their mind set on what we wanted to do on the defensive end.”

Presbyterian took a 2-0 lead on Davon Bell’s driving basket with 18:26 left in the first half, but those would be the Blue Hose’s last points for 9 minutes, 45 seconds. Tennessee led 28-2 by the time J.C. Younger ended the Presbyterian drought.

Jordan Bowden scored 12 points during the 28-0 spurt, including seven straight to break a 2-2 tie and put Tennessee ahead for good. Bowden’s flurry included a 3-pointer and a conversion of his own offensive rebound after a Kyle Alexander missed free throw.

“With our ball pressure, we were trying to speed them up and take them out of their offense,” Bowden said.

Tennessee raced to a 46-14 halftime lead before coasting the rest of the way.

Schofield previously had scored 22 points in an 83-77 loss to Auburn on Jan. 2, 2016.

Bowden scored all 15 of his points in the first half and Grant Williams added 14. Bell scored a career-high 20 points and Francois Lewis had 10 for Presbyterian.

This marked the head coaching debut for Presbyterian’s Dustin Kerns, who was born about 100 miles rom Tennessee’s campus in Kingsport, Tennessee, and worked as a graduate assistant for the Vols on Buzz Peterson’s staff in 2003-04. Kerns said he had about 30 friends and relatives at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Kerns had spent the last four seasons as a Wofford assistant before getting hired at Presbyterian. Kerns took over the job from Gregg Nibert, who resigned in April after going 419-409 in 28 seasons.

Kerns inherits a Big South program that has endured 10 straight losing seasons, including a 5-25 mark last year.

“This isn’t about me,” Kerns said. “This is about our team. I just told them it’s a loss, but it’s a learning opportunity. We have to stay strong.”