KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- First half: advantage Murray State. Second half: super advantage Tennessee.
The Volunteers (2-0), down by nine at the half against the Racers, used 19 second-half points (and 26 overall) from Jordan Bowden -- then closed the game on an 18-2 run in the final six minutes to pull away and beat MSU 82-63 on Saturday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"This is a really good win against a really good basketball team," noted UT head coach Rick Barnes on his post-game radio show.
The Racers (1-1) led 44-35 at the break, thanks to an impressive rebounding edge (22-10) and strong 3-point shooting (8-for-14).
But those numbers completely flipped in the second half, as Tennessee held MSU to 1-for-9 from the arc and outrebounded the Racers 25-12 in the final 20 minutes.
And the Volunteers never wavered at the arc, scorching the Racers' usually stout 3-point defense by nailing 12-for-22 from deep -- including 5-for-8 in what was an emphatic second half performance.
"In the first half, I thought we were late on a few closeouts on Yves Pons, and he stepped up and went 3-for-3 at the half," noted MSU head coach Matt McMahon. "Zach Kent came off the bench and hit one. And then in the second half, we weren't scoring, they were able to get out in transition, and Bowden hit a couple of huge ones in transition.
Pons hits the tough one in the corner. I'm sure when I watch the film there will be some breakdowns, but I'll give a lot of credit to Tennessee.
"I thought they hit some tough shots that were contested from behind the arc."
The Racers trailed just 2-0, then commanded for the next 19 minutes -- taking a 44-35 lead into the locker room behind 12 first-half points from each of MSU's wings in Tevin Brown and Jaiveon Eaves.
A pair of 3-pointers from sophomore forward KJ Williams defined an 8-0 run that gave MSU a 26-18 lead with 7:33 left in the first half.
One of Brown's five triples (5-for-10) gave MSU a 40-28 advantage just before the final first-half media timeout.
Tennessee opened the second half on a 15-7 run in 5:24, with Bowden's triple cutting the Vols deficit to 51-50.
A triple from Brown right out of the timeout created a bit of separation for the Racers at 54-50, but another Bowden triple gave Tennessee its first lead, 59-58, since the 2-0 mark in the first half.
Vols point guard Lamonte Turner, held to just 2-for-12 shooting from the field, instead diced the Racers defensively -- converting 14 assists with zero turnovers, including eight assists in the second stanza.
"I thought we did a good job contesting (Turner's) shots, but credit to him," McMahon added.
"I think what you saw from him and Bowden both were their experience -- being a top-five team in the country a year ago.
"And credit to him for the maturity. He didn't have a good shooting night, but I thought he really controlled the second half with his passing. Didn't make many mistakes. And when you go 14 assists and zero turnovers, that's a heckuva night, regardless of what you shoot from the floor."
Tennessee 82, Murray St. 63
MURRAY ST. (1-1) -- Williams 4-7 0-0 10, A.Smith 3-7 0-0 6, D.Smith 3-7 0-0 6, Brown 6-14 0-1 17, Eaves 4-11 3-4 13, Cowart 2-7 5-5 9, Gilmore 1-1 0-1 2, Holliday 0-1 0-0 0, Carter 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 8-11 63.
TENNESSEE (2-0) -- Fulkerson 3-4 3-5 9, Turner 2-12 1-2 5, Bowden 8-15 4-5 26, James 1-4 2-2 5, Pons 8-10 0-0 19, Kent 1-2 0-0 3, Pember 0-0 0-0 0, Nkamhoua 3-5 2-4 8, Gaines 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 3-6 0-0 7. Totals 29-58 12-18 82.
Halftime--Murray St. 44-35. 3-Point Goals--Murray St. 9-22 (Brown 5-9, Williams 2-3, Eaves 2-5, Holliday 0-1, D.Smith 0-4), Tennessee 12-21 (Bowden 6-7, Pons 3-4, James 1-1, Kent 1-2, Johnson 1-4, Turner 0-3). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Murray St. 32 (A.Smith 8), Tennessee 34 (Fulkerson 9). Assists--Murray St. 17 (Brown 6), Tennessee 21 (Turner 14). Total Fouls--Murray St. 19, Tennessee 15.