Vols Blast UT-Martin

In the encyclopedia of sports cliches a tie is said to be like kissing your sister, but Tennessee's game against UT-Martin at Thompson-Boling Arena tonight was more a case of kicking your kid sister.

The Vols gave their smaller sibling institute in the University of Tennessee system a swift kick to the pants with a 22-3 run in the final seven minutes of the first half to build a 45-23 advantage at intermission. UT-Martin (6-4) managed to cut the lead to 17 in the opening minutes of the second stanza before UT responded with a 12-4 spurt to push its lead to 25. Tennessee (6-2) got up by 30 at one point in the second half en route to the 27-point victory.

Tennessee's low-post tandem of Ron Slay and Brandon Crump combined for 37 points on 13-of-22 shooting, 16 rebounds and seven assists. Slay spearheaded the onslaught with game highs of 21 points and nine rebounds in addition to dishing out six assists. Crump hit 5-of-8 from the field including a couple of nice midrange jumpers.

"That's our emphasis to get the ball inside," said Tennessee's Buzz Peterson in an interview broadcast by the Vol Network. "Crump has a good touch and the green light from 15 feet in. Ron can step out and shoot, too. Those two can really make things happen in there."

Also making things happen were freshman guards C.J. Watson and John Winchester. Watson ran the offense and scored eight points, had a game-high seven assists and three steals with only two turnovers. Winchester went 2-of-2 from the field, including a three-pointer, grabbed two boards and had one assist in only eight minutes of action, as he displayed the range and confidence expected after he signed with the Vols as one of the nation's top 50 prospects.

"He did a great job tonight; shooting and doing some nice things in there," Peterson said. "It looked like Winchester made a statement tonight.

"C.J. really has a knack for hitting shooters right between the numbers. It makes it easy for them to go up with their shots."

Two Tennessee senior guards — Jon Higgins and Thaydeus Holden — also contributed points and good perimeter defense as the Skyhawks were limited to only 3-of-22 three-point attempts. Higgins had eight points, seven boards and three steals, while Holden had nine points and two blocks in 19 minutes of action.

The Vols out rebounded UT-Martin 48 to 38, had 15 turnovers while forcing 20, and held leading scorer Earl Bullock to only three points on 1-of-13 shooting. Joey Walker (10 points) was the only Skyhawk in double figures. UTK shot 41.8 percent from the field and hit 15-of-22 from the foul line.

"I was excited with the way we played," said Peterson. "We had a couple of periods we didn't play well, but UT-Martin had a lot to do with that. I was concerned about their quickness. Overall I was pleased with the way we played. We talked about putting two good halves together, playing with confidence and respecting UT-Martin and I think we did those things."

The Vols host New Mexico on Saturday before opening SEC action against Kentucky on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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