KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's basketball team can now focus on its trip to the beach and the national stage at the Maui Invitational next week.
It took the Volunteers a little longer than they might have liked to get there, though.
Pesky Louisiana-Monroe hung with the Vols well into the second half before UT won 85-62 on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"I thought we were rushing shots in the first half," first-year coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I thought we were looking too much for individual offense. Not that we were necessarily selfish, but we got eight or nine points up and the focus goes from putting a team away with the defense to getting shots up."
Trae Golden led UT (2-0) with 17 points and 11 assists, and Jeronne Maymon had 11 points and 11 rebounds. They became the first UT duo since 2009 to post double-doubles in the same game, and Golden's double-digit assist game was the Vols' first since Tyler Smith's triple double in 2008.
UT led 9-0 and 15-6, but the Warhawks (0-3) -- who are down three scholarship players and under a postseason ban this season for low Academic Progress Rate scores -- battled back to tie the game at 33 at halftime. ULM made 15 of 32 shots, and Fred Brown, a transfer from Kansas State, came off the bench for a quick 10 points.
With Monday's game against sixth-ranked Duke looming, the Vols could have been looking forward after building such a quick lead.
"There probably was, and I don't like to think there was," said freshman guard Josh Richardson. "But to be human, there probably was a little bit. They started getting what they wanted, and we just weren't playing D like we should be."
After making 15 3-pointers in the season opener, UT made six in the first half, compared to just four 2-point baskets. The Vols had 10 turnovers and shot just 31 percent.
"It kind of felt like the game before, how everything was going to go in," said forward Jeronne Maymon. "I didn't think like they were going to shoot like in the first half. We probably got ahead of ourselves and didn't think they'd play the way they played."
ULM led by as many as four early in the second half before UT's 16-3 run put it up 62-51 on Richardson's 3-pointer with more than eight minutes remaining. The Vols had just one second-half turnover, outscored ULM 26-2 in the paint after halftime and shot 58 percent.
Skylar McBee chipped in 15 points on five 3-pointers for UT, which also got 13 points from Cameron Tatum and 11 from Richardson.
"The thing that I've learned is we have some pieces," Martin said. "Now it's a matter of what our guys feel and what they've learned. I think we're a good team in my opinion. I think we can be a good team, now they have to believe in themselves.
"I thought this was a good test for our guys to gauge the body language and the vibe of guys when you get down and all of the sudden the other team makes a run when you're expected to beat somebody by 30 points. It doesn't happen like that, because once again those guys practice just like we do. Your approach has to be consistent every day."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...