KNOXVILLE - Jordan McRae scored 14 points Friday night as the Tennessee men's basketball team capitalized on a big disparity at the free-throw line and defeated Western Carolina 66-52 for the Volunteers' 300th all-time win at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols (7-3) are 300-104 at Thompson-Boling, their home floor since the 1987-88 season.
Josh Richardson and Jarnell Stokes added 12 points each for Tennessee, while Trae Golden scored 10 points and Kenny Hall had nine points and a career-high 13 rebounds after sitting out Tuesday's win over Presbyterian with a strained hamstring. Trey Sumler scored 23 points and Brandon Boggs had 15 for Western Carolina (4-8).
The Vols made 30 of 42 free throws, while Western Carolina hit 8 of 11.
Tennessee made just three baskets in the entire first half but led 22-18 at the intermission because it played solid defense and continually got to the foul line. The Vols were 3-of-21 overall, 0-of-7 from 3-point range and 16-of-20 from the line in the first half.
The Catamounts committed 30 fouls in the game as they swarmed Stokes virtually every time he got the ball near the basket. That foul trouble eventually sealed Western Carolina's fate.
Before the Vols pulled away with a late 18-2 run, all the elements for an upset seemed in place.
Hall converted a three-point play to open the scoring, but the Vols went more than 10 minutes before making their next basket. They missed 14 of their first 15 shots as Western Carolina built a 10-point lead.
Nothing worked for the Vols in the early going.
After sitting out each of the Vols' last two games because walk-on Brandon Lopez had replaced him in the rotation, backup point guard Armani Moore returned to action Friday and went right back to the bench after picking up three fouls in two minutes.
The Vols regained the lead by outscoring Western Carolina 18-4 over the last nine minutes of the first half. They staged much of that comeback without a true point guard on the floor. McRae, a versatile shooting guard, ran the offense while Golden rested.
Tennessee exceeded its first-half basket total in the first four minutes of the second half but couldn't put the Catamounts away. James Sinclair's jump shot gave Western Carolina a 38-37 lead with 11:57 remaining.
But the Vols responded with the 18-2 run and maintained control. Richardson and Hall scored the first 10 points of that spurt, while Skylar McBee capped the run by sinking a 3-pointer that gave the Vols a 15-point lead with 4:11 left.
Richardson scored 10 of his 12 points after halftime and made all five of his second-half shots.