KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Rick Barnes knew Tennessee would face a challenge from Tennessee Tech, but he had hoped his young team would handle it better.
The Vols (5-4) led by as many as 22 points in the second half when Robert Hubbs lll scored two of his game-high 25 points on a jumper with 16:57 left to make it 49-27.
The Golden Eagles (4-8) fought back, going on a 16-3 run and forcing 11 Tennessee turnovers in the final 11 minutes.
“I didn’t think at any point and time when we were up 22 that they were out of the game, because I watched their game with Michigan State,” Barnes said. “It was almost a carbon copy where Michigan State was up about 20 and started thinking the game was over.”
The Spartans held on for a 71-63 win against Tennessee Tech last Saturday in East Lansing.
Tennessee Tech cut the Vols’ lead to five points on Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena with 1:55 left on Hakeem Rogers’ 3-pointer.
The Golden Eagles were still down 70-65 with 32 seconds left when Hubbs came up with a blocked shot.
Lamonte Turner sank a pair of free throws at the other end of the court as the Vols proceeded to salt the game away.
“We had a great first half, one turnover, second half we were a different team,” Barnes said. “I felt we were self-centered.
“We didn’t do a good job trying to post the ball or drive it.”
Barnes said his team has showed him what they are capable of — most recently leading at North Carolina by 15 points on Sunday before the Tar Heels rallied for a 73-71 win.
“We’ve shown we can play well,” Barnes said. “But we haven’t shown we can play a solid 40 minutes, that’s what we haven’t shown.”