KNOXVILLE — With the clock nearing all zeros and no other options, Antonio Barton let the basketball fly from just inside the half-court line.
It was that kind of night for Tennessee and its point guard.
Powered by scorching 3-point shooting, the Volunteers delivered what easily was their most complete performance of the season in a 87-52 shellacking of Virginia at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night.
The 35-point win, which included Barton's half-court shot at the first-half buzzer and Jordan McRae's flying tomahawk slam in the second half, was the largest under third-year coach Cuonzo Martin.
"When you make shots, that's what you look like," Martin said.
The Vols entered the game shooting less than 32 percent from 3-point range for the season, but they made their first five treys and finished 8-of-11 from beyond the 3-point line in the first half and 11-of-18 for the game.
Barton's heave capped off a 48-point first half against a Virginia team that was allowing just 54.2 points per game, the fourth-fewest in the country.
The transfer from Memphis didn't even crack a smile after his shot. He simply turned and walked off the floor instead.
"I was still in amazement that it went in," he said. "I shot it just to shoot it. I didn't think it was going to go in. When it went in, I was like, 'Oh.'
"I wasn't too excited," Barton added, "because we had another half."
From the opening tip, the Vols (8-4) jumped all over the Cavaliers, who were picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and last December stifled Tennessee in a 46-38 win in Charlottesville. From a 13-4 lead, Barton's layup with 6:29 left in the half pushed the margin to 21, and only thrice did Virginia trim its deficit under 20 points.
When the Cavs cut it to 19 (62-43) in the second half, Tennessee answered with a 14-2 run to push the lead to 76-45 with more than six minutes on the clock, and the margin ballooned to 37 points.
"We're definitely hitting shots, but people are having open shots, then passing them up to get somebody else who's more open than them or just hit a shot," said McRae, who scored 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting with five rebounds and five assists.
"We're hitting shots, but I think we're shooting the right shots."
Josh Richardson, coming off a 19-point game last week against Morehead State, scored 15 of Tennessee's first 27 points on two jumpers and a pair of 3s.
The junior, who finished with 20 points, said his confidence offensively is as high as it has been in his college career.
"I've been hitting a lot of shots lately," he said. "I've just got to stay confident. I can't really lose any steps."
Jarnell Stokes was the third Tennessee player with at least 20 points, as the Vols' big man, a 56.7 percent foul shooter the past two seasons, made 12 of 14 free throws to push his season percentage to .692.
Stokes, who converted a couple of three-point plays early in the second half, credited the improvement to his summer work.
"Some days I made a hundred. Some days it was 'Make 25 in a row, then reward yourself because you can leave early,'" he explained. "I was constantly getting them up, and I was making sure that I used the same form every time. I think I struggled with that last year, not being able to use the [same] form.
"Just being older and going through the struggles last year, I know that they're very important."
Barton had scored just seven points in Tennessee's last three games and missed all nine shots he took in scoreless games in losses to Wichita State and North Carolina State, so he welcomed a 14-point outing that included 3-of-4 success on 3s.
"It was very frustrating," he said of his struggles. "When it happened my first game, I missed a shot, and I let it carry over to my next games. I was kind of hard myself like, 'I've got to knock this shot down.'
"This game I just left all those games in the past, came back as if it was a fresh start and I just came out and played my game."
Martin admitted Tennessee's blistering night offensively surprised him.
"It just shows our guys the level we're capable of playing when we play together and when we play hard," he said. "That's a talented team. I was surprised at the way we did what we did."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 ...