KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Lamonte’ Turner scored 17 points and Yves Pons added a career-high 15 points as Tennessee opened the season Tuesday by beating UNC Asheville 78-63 for its 27th consecutive home victory.
At least for the moment, Tennessee has the longest active home winning streak of any Division I team. Buffalo will seek its 27th straight home win when it opens the season Friday against Dartmouth.
The Volunteers haven’t lost a home game since falling 94-84 to Auburn on Jan. 2, 2018.
Although it had little trouble keeping its home streak alive Tuesday, Tennessee also showed signs that it might have some growing pains as it attempts to replace three NBA draft picks from the team that owned the No. 1 ranking for four weeks and eventually reached the Sweet 16 last season.
The Vols only led by six points early in the second half against a Big South Conference program coming off a 4-27 season.
Tennessee lost 70 percent of its scoring from last season and must replace All-America forward Grant Willias and Associated Press second-team all-Southeastern Conference selections Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone.
Williams went to the Boston Celtics with the 22nd overall pick in the NBA Draft. Schofield and Bone were drafted in the second round.
UNC Asheville’s LJ Thorpe made a driving basket to cut Tennessee’s lead to 36-30 with 19:39 left. Tennessee responded with a 15-1 spurt and never looked back.
The Vols led by as many as 25 before UNC Asheville went on a late 12-0 run.
Jordan Bowden and John Fulkerson had 10 points each for Tennessee. Fulkerson also had nine rebounds to help Tennessee outrebound UNC Asheville 49-29.
Thorpe scored 22 points to lead UNC Asheville. North Carolina State transfer Lavar Batts Jr. had 11 points in his UNC Asheville debut.