Nov. 12, 2010
Tobias Harris made fastbreak layups and knocked in jumpers from the middle of a crowd of defenders. He hit free throws and even swished a 3-pointer.
Not a bad start to a college career.
"Tobias is special. He's super-solid," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "A good coach will get him more shots, and our coaches will try to get him some more looks."
Harris scored 18 points in his first collegiate game and the 23rd-ranked Volunteers cruised to an 82-62 season-opening victory over Chattanooga on Friday night.
The highly touted freshman gave the Mocs more than they could handle in the paint, outmanning double-team coverage to get tough shots. He drew enough attention from Chattanooga to open the lane a bit for his teammates, and the Vols scored 36 points in the paint.
"They were just playing physical and hard, but at the same time if they want to play physical and hard, I can play physical and hard and just continue to battle down there," Harris said.
Harris hit consecutive shots in the paint before drilling a 3-pointer that kicked off an 11-0 run by the Vols. Keegan Bell fouled Melvin Goins while taking a shot behind the arc, and Goins hit all three free throws to make it 14-3 with 15:27 in the first half.
The Vols took turns driving the lane and going to the free throw line during a 17-0 run later in the half that put them up 40-18 with 2 minutes left. Tennessee shot 45.5 percent from the field in the first half and held a 45-26 lead at the break with 20 points coming in the paint.
Tennessee lost 79-64 in an exhibition game to Division II Indianapolis on Monday night after struggling with composure in transition and failing to hold on to the ball. This time it was the Vols who were quick in transition, grabbing 10 steals and scoring 19 points off turnovers and 14 on fast breaks.
The Vols never trailed and led by as many as 31 points before Pearl went almost exclusively to reserves.
"We didn't play very well. I mean, we just didn't play very well," Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. "Bruce said we were hard to guard, but the ball has to go in the basket."
Chattanooga returned three starters from last season and boasts a deep bench, but its biggest question heading into the season was its frontcourt play. Struggling to get anywhere near the basket, the Mocs were forced to take most of their shots deep and scored only eight points in the paint, all but two coming late against Tennessee's reserves.
At one point it looked like it might work. Bell hit three straight 3-pointers to cut Tennessee's lead to 21-16 with 10:53 in the first half, but it was as close as Chattanooga would get on 32.7 percent shooting from the field.
"Their length and size was tremendous, and they were phenomenal on ball screens, and our first options weren't there," Chattanooga's Ricky Taylor said. "We had to go to our second option and rely on our 3-point shot. They didn't go in."
Bell led the Mocs with a career-high 20 points and Omar Wattad had 13.
Pearl put his players through a 5:30 a.m. film session on Tuesday and some tough practices during the week in order to put the exhibition loss behind them. They rewarded him by keeping him perfect in his six season openers.
"We came off two great days of practice, and I think it all stemmed from there," Goins said. "When we practice well we play well."