Oct. 30, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Someone forgot to tell Scotty Hopson it was exhibition season.
Tennessee's sophomore guard dropped in 20 points Friday night as the Vols used muscle and athleticism to overpower Division II North Alabama 117-79 to win both teams' first exhibition game of the season in front of 18,362 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Seven UT players scored in double figures with freshman post player Kenny Hall going 5-for-5 from the floor for 14 points. It was a telling story of how Tennessee shot as a team: 65.7 percent from the floor, 58.8 percent (10-of-17) from 3-point land.
Still, Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl saw ways to improve.
"We were trying to have controlled chaos out there, but to me it looked like we had more chaos than we had control," Pearl said in reference to his team's 26 turnovers amid the uptempo style. "We turned ourselves over way too much and the game was way too sloppy. You've got to start someplace and it's a starting point."
The 10th-ranked Vols used a second-half run to pull away from the Lions and it was off to the races after that.
Hopson had 13 of his points at the break, then got the final 20 minutes kicked off with a bang.
Leading 66-47 with 17:51 remaining, Tennessee got back-to-back alley-oops by Renaldo Woolridge and Hopson, then Brian Williams nailed consecutive jumpers in the paint to start a 16-4 run for a 30-point lead.
"Scotty was more aggressive trying to get to the basket and finding contact," Pearl said. "Obviously he was still playing in a bit of a rhythm. That's the best he's shot the ball this year."
Hopson was 8-of-10 from the floor and had four 3-pointers.
The muscle part was provided by Tennessee's interior as the Vols outrebounded the Lions 45-29. Hall had seven to lead the way, but still saw room for improvement - and expects it the next time out.
"I wish I would have gotten more aggressive as far as going toward the board," Hall said. "We need to crash the boards harder, do a better job of boxing out our man and a better job of taking care of the ball."
Jared Strode led North Alabama with 20 points, followed by Daviel Clements who had 17. The Lions enter this season with five new starters and 12 new players.
"Coming into a game like this, we are obviously overmatched," said North Alabama head coach Bobby Champagne. "They are the No. 10-ranked team in the country in Division I. We have 12 new guys; there is a big gap."
The Vols relied on the jumper early and raced to a 17-6 lead, then kept the Lions at arm's length for the rest of the first half. North Alabama pulled to within seven, but UT responded with an 11-3 run halfway through the period to make it 35-20.
That's when Hopson and Tyler Smith shifted gears. Hopson hit a 3 from the wing, then Smith (11 points) muscled in a bucket before the half to stretch UT's lead to 58-41 at half.