Dec. 30, 2003
KNOXVILLE (AP) - On a night when Tennessee seemed to lose its rhythm, coach Buzz Peterson was happy to pull out a victory.
Tennessee (7-1) put away North Carolina-Asheville 80-67 Tuesday with a 10-2 run in the final two minutes keyed by a putback by Brandon Crump, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.
The final score was the Vols' biggest lead of the game.
The Bulldogs were "very sharp, and gave us a very tough challenge," Peterson said. "I told our team to always respect your opponent, and not look at their record."
Asheville (2-9) lost its eighth game in nine outings after fighting back from a 42-35 halftime deficit behind Omar Collington's 18 points.
"This may have been our best team effort since our run in the (NCAA) tournament last year," Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "I think our team grew up tonight. There's not a lot more I can say."
The Bulldogs found easy points under the basket on screens in the first half and pestered the Vols with the zone defense.
"When it came to boxing out, we just couldn't get control of the basketball," Peterson said. "Asheville took us out of our rhythm."
The Bulldogs tied the game 48-48 five minutes into the second half with a nine-point flourish keyed by a 3-point play by Collington and a layup off a loose ball by Joseph Barber.
The teams traded baskets until Crump's putback broke open the game for the Volunteers.
Scooter McFadgon, who sat out Tennessee's win last week over Tennessee Tech with an inflamed tendon in his shoulder, scored 18 points on just 4-of-14 shooting from the field. Stanley Asumnu had 12 points and C.J. Watson scored 13 with eight assists.
Asheville got 13 points from Billy Allen, 11 of which came in the first half as Allen found himself open on several screens under the basket. Joseph Barber and Bryan McCullough had 10 apiece for the Bulldogs.
Biedenbach said turnovers late in the first half and at the end of the game hurt.
"That plus being outrebounded 41-31 killed us," he said.
But Biedenbach is optimistic. Tuesday was considerably better than the Bulldogs' 47-point loss to Iowa in November.
"I really appreciate the way our guys have come together. We're getting better and better every day," he said.
Meantime, Peterson is looking ahead to the Vols next game Jan. 3 at Massachusetts - the last outing before the start of the Southeastern Conference schedule.
"We've got to prepare hard for UMass," he said. "They'll be playing a lot of zone (that gave the Vols trouble Tuesday). In fact, we'll be seeing a lot of it throughout the season, so we'd better get used to it."
Tennessee travels to Massachusetts Saturday in its final non-conference game before the Vols open SEC play against Georgia Jan. 7 at Thompson-Boling Arena.