Vols Cruise in Exhibition Opener Against UAH

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Rick Barnes era at Tennessee got off to an impressive, if unofficial, start on Friday night as the Volunteers defeated Alabama-Huntsville, 96-83, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Barnes predicted that his team would rely on seniors Armani Moore and Kevin Punter Jr. for production and the pair did not disappoint. Moore finished with a double-double, scoring a team-high 29 points to go with 10 rebounds.

"I thought we did some things well," Barnes said. "We know that we are going to play a lot through Kevin and Armani."

Punter scored 25 and tied with Moore for the team lead in assists with five.
Moore scored the first two baskets of the night and he and Punter would combine to score 16 of Tennessee’s first 19 points on the night.

"I think we did a great job of sharing the ball, getting to the rim and making the right plays at the right time," Moore said.

Moore was 10-of-19 from the field, 4-of-6 from 3-point range. The long-range element of his game has been the focus of his offseason, something the Vols will need from him, particularly in transition.

"I feel like once you work on something each and every day, trying to get better, you have to apply it to the game," Moore said. "My teammates and coaches are showing that they have confidence in me, so I feel like why nit come out and do it in a game setting."

Robert Hubbs III was questionable coming into the game coming back from a groin injury, but was far from questionable as the game went along. Detrick Mostella started in his place, but Hubbs entered at the 16:54 mark and nailed a 3-pointer from the corner a minute later. He finished with 15 points and was 3-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Fans received an early preview of what Barnes wants Tennessee to do with an up-tempo flair early and often.

After UAH drew within a point, 9-8, Tennessee streaked down the court with Punter driving to the basket, earning a pair of free throws for his effort. He hit just one of two, but the play was indicative of how the Vols wanted to run and the Chargers saw it over and over again as the game went on. Punter attempted 15 free throws on the night, hitting 12.

The up-tempo scoring barrage continued at a blazing pace for the remainder of the opening half. The Vols put up 62 points in the first period, led by 20 points from Moore and Punter’s 18. Tennessee averaged 63.3 points per game last season and did not score more than 78 points in any game.

Sophomore forward Ray Kasongo was cleared to play in the exhibition earlier Friday and made his debut in the first half. Kasongo finished with two points, scoring on his only shot attempt of the night.

But the Chargers, picked to repeat as Gulf South Champions, would not go quietly into the night. UAH cut into the deficit repeatedly late in the second half, getting within 12 on a pair of occasions, 82-70, and 84-72 in the final 7:00.

Kip Owens nailed a three with 2:26 to go to bring UAH even closer, within 11, but the Vols responded with Moore drawing a foul for a pair of free throws and Punter driving the length of the court for two after a defensive rebound. Punter’s basket would be the final one of the night as Moore came up with a steal that allowed UT to run out the clock.

"We simply, defensively, we weren’t very good," Barnes said. "They got a lot of good looks. They’re extremely well-coached. Between our scrimmage with Davidson and Alabama-Huntsville, we went against teams with two great coaches, teams that execute."

Junior Seab Webster led the Chargers with 21 points. Preston Herring scored 14, Chayse Elloitt and Owens had 10 each. Elliott and Herring each pulled down seven rebounds.

The Vols are now 74-18 all-time in exhibition games and have won 12 straight.

Tennessee opens the regular season next Friday night as it plays host to UNC-Asheville at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Categories: College, Sports, Sports – Local Sports News, Sports – UT Vols

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