Front court powers Vols past UNCA, 75-68

BAYAMON, P.R. -- Tennessee opened play at the Puerto Rico Tipoff with a 75-68 victory over UNC Asheville at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriquez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The Vols' front court exerted its power as Jarnell Stokes (14 points and 11 rebounds) and Kenny Hall (14 points and eight rebounds) combined for 28 points and 19 rebounds. It was Stokes' third-career double-double.

Five Vols scored in double-figures as sophomore Josh Richardson tallied a career-high with 12 points while Trae Golden (14) and Jordan McRae (12) also tallied 10-plus.

The Vols (2-0) will play Oklahoma State at 10:30 a.m., in one semifinal on Friday. That game will air on ESPNU and can be heard on the Vol Network.

UNC Asheville (1-2) was led by Jeremy Atkinson, who had 18 points and nine rebounds. Tennessee leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs, 9-0.

After leading by 10 points at halftime, the Vols kept UNCA at bay for most of the second half as Stokes scored 10 of his points in the final 20 minutes.

Tennessee led by double-figures for the first 15 minutes of the second half thanks to stout defense and rebounding.

UNC Asheville cut the deficit to less than 10 for the first time in the second half on an Atkinson dunk after Keith Hornsby stole the ball. That put the Bulldogs within 66-58 with four minutes left. UNCA outscored Tennessee 19-10 during a stretch while Stokes was on the bench for a span of eight minutes.

The Vols fended off UNC Asheville in the final minutes with Stokes back on the court. Golden made four free throws to regain the double-figure lead. Skylar McBee scored his first points on two foul shots with 1:17 left.

Hornsby -- singer Bruce Hornsby's son -- made a 3-pointer with 35.2 left to cut the Vols' lead to 72-65 -- the closest the margin since 2:55 was left in the first half (UT 33-26).

McBee added two more free throws for a 74-65 advantage. UNCA missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds. The Vols made 11 of their final 12 free throws.

Hall showed his all-around game early in the second half as the lead moved to 48-33 as he hit the jumper, grabbed a rebound and helped set up a Stokes lay-up with 16 minutes left in the game. Stokes addd another lay-up to extended the lead to 50-33, seconds later forcing UNCA to call timeout.

Stokes emphatically stuffed one home to put the Vols ahead 56-39 with 12:37 left in the game.

The Vols led at halftime, 38-28 as Richardson had nine points in the first period. Tennessee made the most of its aggressive defense converting nine Bulldogs' turnovers into 15 points in the first half. UT shot 52 percent from the floor.

Tennessee and UNC Asheville played even for the first 13 minutes as the game stood tied at 19. The Vols took the at 20-19 on a layup by Golden with 8:12 left in the first half. The lead extended to eight at 30-22 on a 3-pointer by McRae as the shot clock expired with 4:49 left in the first half.

Richardson's pair of free throws moved the margin to double-figures for the first time with two minutes left in the half at 36-26.

The Vols will take on Oklahoma State, winners of a 69-65 overtime contest over Akron in the first game of the Puerto Rico Tipoff. The Tennessee-OSU game will tip at 10:30 a.m.. on Friday and be televised on ESPNU and can be heard on the Vol Network. The last time the Vols and Cowboys played was in the 2009 NCAA Tournament First Round as OSU ended UT's season with a 77-75 win in Dayton. All-time, the Vols are 1-2 against Oklahoma State, with a 79-77 win on Dec. 18, 2006.

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