Many of Tennessee's early-season problem areas—turnovers, free throws, shooting slumps—came to the surface yet again on Monday night.
And the Vols still won by 26 points.
Spurred by a hot start and a runaway second half, UT cruised to an 86-60 win over The Citadel on Monday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"Good win for our guys," head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "We were able to accomplish what we wanted to do as far as getting out of the gates good, shooting the ball well from the field, but also getting those key guys rested."
Two nights removed from a nail-biting, come-from-behind win over USC Upstate, the Vols (2-1) put Monday's win on cruise control in the early minutes. They started off 11-for-14 from the field and took it to the undersized Bulldogs' frontcourt off the bat.
The Vols weren't familiar with starting off strong in this young season, trailing at half in each of their first two games. Enjoying a 20-point cushion midway through the first half, lethargy then struck as UT missed six of its next seven shots.
Senior guard Jordan McRae led the Vols with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, and summed up how himself and his experienced teammates can keep the streaky play at a minimum.
"It's tough," McRae said, "but as an older team, we all have to make sure we stay on everybody. We have to make sure we stay on ourselves, and keep our foot on the gas for the whole game."
That message reverberated with one of UT's touted freshman. Robert Hubbs III saved his best for last, securing 13 points—11 of which came in the second half.
After failing to score against Xavier and making a minimal impact against USC Upstate, Hubbs acknowledged some early anger but insisted his mind is focused on being a complete player.
"It was definitely frustrating not putting up the points you want to," Hubbs said. "But I'm not worried about that right now. I'm just worried about getting better on the defensive end and staying aggressive."
With excitement slipping from the game as fast as the minutes ticked off the clock, Hubbs' two high-flying dunks—including an alley-oop from fellow freshman Darius Thompson—injected life into the crowd of 13,394 on hand.
McRae, Hubbs' biggest mentor on the team, shot up off the bench and let out his signature shriek after the freshman's emphatic dunk. But he still had words of advice for Hubbs afterward.
"He's just a freshman," McRae said of Hubbs, who shot 5-for-11. "At this stage, sometimes when he has it he doesn't take it, and when he doesn't have it, he takes it. That just takes time for him to learn."
Through two games, UT's starting five of Antonio Barton, McRae, Josh Richardson, Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes had combined for 124 of the team's 137 points. With the win over The Citadel on ice early, the bench players got more of a chance to make an impact.
In Monday's win, the bench totaled 31 points—most of which came from a trio of freshman. Hubbs' 13 points led bench players, followed by six apiece from Thompson and A.J. Davis.
"We still have to get our bench stronger," Martin said. "I think those guys made some strides tonight, but we've got a ways to go so we can solidify those minutes coming off the bench."
The frontcourt duo of Stokes and Maymon combined for just nine rebounds in sparse action, but both buried their shoulders into easy baskets early on. Stokes totaled nine points in 21 minutes, while Maymon scored seven points in 16 minutes of play.
On Saturday, the Vols recorded their lowest turnover total (five) in a game since 1992. Monday was a different story—Stokes equaled that number himself, and UT committed 14 turnovers as a unit.
The Vols will conclude a three-game home stand on Friday against Tennessee State at 7 p.m. After that, it's off to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Thanksgiving weekend.