Tennessee wasn’t at its best on offense on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, but the Vols were good enough on defense and at the free-throw line to beat Georgia Tech.
Tennessee improved to 6-1 with a 77-70 victory over the Yellow Jackets before a crowd of 6,514 at McCamish Pavilion, even with front-line starters Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander fouled out of the contest.
It’s the Vols’ best start to a season since 2010, while coach Josh Pastner and Georgia Tech dropped to 4-2.
Williams got off to a hot start with 10 points and 5 rebounds in the first half, but the preseason All-SEC pick was limited to 1 point and 1 rebound in the second half, limited to just 7 minutes on the floor with foul issues.
Tennessee’s ability to hold off the Yellow Jackets without Williams on the floor, and without the offense in sync, were the two most positive takeaways.
The Vols return home to play host to Lipscomb at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena, and the next game after that is a home date with No. 13-ranked North Carolina on Sunday, Dec. 17.
Sophomore guard Lamonte Turner scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half to lead Tennessee scorers, tying his career high in the process.
Alexander led the team with 11 rebounds to go with his 7 points and 3 blocked shots.
Here are 3 things about the Vols’ impressive victory against Georgia Tech on Sunday:
Turner scored 11 of his 24 points in the final 6 minutes, 25 seconds with Williams, Alexander and Admiral Schofield plagued by foul trouble. But even before then, Turner was hitting some key shots.
Most notably, Georgia Tech went on an 8-0 run to close to 41-40 at the start of the second half, but Turner drained a 3-pointer to stem that Yellow Jackets rally.
It also was Turner who ended UT’s cold-shooting streak down the stretch, hitting a floater in the lane with 3:43 remaining after Georgia Tech had pulled to 56-54, ending the team’s spell of 6:05 without a field goal.
Vols kill rally at line
Tennessee was 23 of 27 (85.2 percent) from the free-throw line, an impressive number when one considers it was the Vols’ first true road game of the season.
Turner was 9 of 9 from the line — all in the last 6:30 of the game with the Yellow Jackets looking to rally.
Tennessee’s rim protector
Alexander might be making the biggest difference for the Vols with his defense at the rim and rebounding. The 6-foot-11 Alexander led the Vols with 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
Alexander’s defense made things hard on Yellow Jackets junior post Ben Lammers, who entered the game averaging 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds. Lammers had 17 points, but he was 4-of-11 shooting with 3 turnovers and a minus-7 plus-minus on the floor.