The Vols missed their first six shots in the first three minutes, a few nerves showing their face in Dallas, perhaps. But in those same three minutes, Wright State went 0-for-3 and turned it over twice. Then the Vols got going. The Raiders did not.
Tennessee led by 11 at halftime, never let Wright State get closer than 10 from there, and stretched their legs in the final minutes to take home a 26-point victory. In the SEC/Big 12 Challenge the Vols held Iowa State to 45 points and 33.3% from the floor, the best performance from Tennessee’s defense this year before today. The Vols held Wright State to 31.7% shooting, and just missed a new benchmark for points allowed before a mini-spurt from the Raiders in the last three minutes.
The Vols almost had double-double-doubles: Admiral Schofield had 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Grant Williams added 14 points and nine rebounds. Lamonte Turner poured in 19 points off the bench, including 9-of-10 at the line, while adding nine assists to just one turnover. Tennessee also got good work from John Fulkerson and Jordan Bowden in grabbing seven rebounds apiece.
It’s the sixth time since 2006 the Vols have advanced to the tournament’s second round; four of the other five made their way to the Sweet 16. To get there the Vols will have to go through Miami or Loyola-Chicago, a stiffer challenge either way. But credit the Vols today for using defense to do exactly what a three seed should do to a 14. Not since Tennessee blew out Long Beach State in 2007’s opening round have the Vols had such an enjoyably easy time in the tournament. It won’t be this easy again, but the Vols look more than up to the challenge.