One school record.
The No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers opened their basketball season Tuesday night by draining 17 3-pointers in a 90-62 dismantling of UT Martin before an announced crowd of 16,425 inside Thompson-Boling Arena. Leading the way in the long-range parade for seventh-year coach Rick Barnes were guards Kennedy Chandler, Justin Powell and Santiago Vescovi, who combined on 13-of-20 3-point tries.
"We just came out ready to shoot every time," Chandler said in a news conference. "Coach Barnes said for everybody to be ready to shoot and to not settle. We shot it really well in the second half. We had to turn that switch."
Tuesday marked the first regular-season game together for Chandler, the five-star freshman, Powell, the sophomore transfer from Auburn, and Vescovi, the returning junior. Chandler and Vescovi shared team-high honors with 20 points apiece, with Chandler making all four of his 3-point attempts and Vescovi making 6-of-11 shots from beyond the arc.
Chandler was 7-of-10 overall from the floor in his debut and had four assists and three turnovers.
"There is no doubt that offensively he's electric, and he can do a lot of things," Barnes said. "He's still learning how to run a system, and he's learning defensively that a lot of guys have the ability to go by him. Tonight, defensively, he was reaching a lot and lunging, and we did that as a group. He's got to continue to get himself in elite shape mentally.
"He's there physically, but he's got to fight harder when he's tired. We still want a quicker pace out of him on the offensive end."
Chandler's older teammates enjoyed his first show.
"Every time he attacks and is under control and knows what he's looking for, he's going to create something great," junior forward Olivier Nkamhoua said. "I don't think anybody can keep up with Kennedy, especially guarding him, because they're going backwards and he's going forwards. That kid can move."
UT Martin hung tough early, grabbing a 20-16 lead on a KJ Simon jumper with 12:39 remaining in the first half, and the Skyhawks were shooting 61.1% with the game tied 26-26 at the time out under the eight-minute mark. The Vols would build a 43-35 halftime lead, however, and a Vescovi 3-pointer with 18:28 left provided Tennessee its first double-digit lead at 46-35.
Skyhawks sophomore forward KK Curry, who played at Cleveland High School and began his college career at South Alabama, scored a team-high 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Tennessee's 17 three-pointers were out of 40 attempts, with its 42.5% accuracy from long range nearly matching its 42.9% shooting (33-of-77) overall. The Vols forced 21 turnovers and strengthened defensively in the second half during their first game without shot-blocking menace Yves Pons, who's now a rookie with the Memphis Grizzlies.
"Yves is the best defensive player I've ever played with, but we can't think about that," Nkamhoua said after his 14-point, 11-rebound performance. "We've got to think about the defensive tools that we have. We have good size right now and good speed, and we have strong guards and fast guards. We have bigs who are capable of doing what Yves does in different ways and making up for that.
"We just have to focus on what we have and not what we lost. We just need to figure ourselves out."
The Vols, who played without sixth-year senior forward John Fulkerson (thumb), take the floor again Sunday for a noon showdown against visiting East Tennessee State.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.