The Div. II Magicians were more comical than magical.
"I was hoping they'd be better," Vol coach Bruce Pearl said.
The way Tennessee played the first 10 minutes, it might not have mattered. Showing more speed, athleticism and depth than last season, the Vols came out smoking. Freshman Duke Crews brought the crowd to its feet in the opening minutes by blocking a shot at one end, then racing to the opposite end to score a transition dunk. Another Crews block ignited a transition dunk by JaJuan Smith. When transfer Tony Passley dunked moments later, the lead swelled to 22-2.
"I ain't never been a part of something like that," Smith said of the red-hot start. "That was something new."
Still, the explosion didn't surprise him very much.
"We've been holding it in," he said. "We've been holding orange and white scrimmages for two months. We're ready to see another color."
Tennessee shot a sizzling 80.6 percent from the floor in the first half. The Vols "cooled off" to 57.6 percent in the second half but still finished at 69.6 for the game. They recorded 31 assists and just nine turnovers with 14 steals. On the down side, they hit a pedestrian 33 percent (6 of 18) from 3-point range, 60 percent (24 of 40) from the foul line and outrebounded the undersized foe by a mere 42-36 margin.
Smith led the scoring parade with 22 points in just 16 minutes. Passley and freshman Wayne Chism chipped in 17 each. Crews and fellow freshman Ramar Smith added 12 each. Ryan Childress contributed 11 points and preseason All-American Chris Lofton 10.
Freshman posts Chism (7 of 9 from the floor) and Crews (5 of 5) combined to sink 12 of 14 shots and score 29 points.
"Both of them together, they're going to be hard to handle," Smith said.
After noting that the Vols "didn't get enough exposed" in terms of weaknesses needing work, Pearl conceded that "You have to like the way the kids came out … how sharp they were to make their first 18 shots. That's terrific for a young basketball team to do that."
Pearl called off the fullcourt press 10 minutes into the game. It was the merciful thing to do, given the fact LeMoyne-Owen was grossly overmatched. That's why Pearl suggested that Tuesday night's statistics are deceiving.
"Take it all with a grain of salt," he said.
NOTES: The 126 points were the most ever in a Vol game. The previous record of 121 was set against Mexico in 1966…. Tennessee opened with a lineup of senior Dane Bradshaw, juniors Lofton and JaJuan Smith, freshmen Crews and Johnson…. Steven Pearl, the coach's son, was impressive in a mop-up role. He produced 6 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in just 10 minutes – numbers that would project to 24 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists over the course of a 40-minute game…. Tennessee plays Exhibition No. 2 Friday night against Tusculum.