The accomplishments were special, even if the level of play at times was not.
Tennessee’s Tyler Smith recorded the first triple-double in the program’s 2,338-game history and coach Bruce Pearl recorded his 400th career victory in the Vols’ 87-69 win over UNC Asheville on Wednesday night .
Smith had 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead a tired Tennessee (6-1) team before the smallest home crowd of the year (19,391) at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“It’s special to get it in the program’s 100th year, and it’s really special to get it on the night Coach Pearl got his 400th career win,’’ said Smith, who completed the rare feat when Scotty Hopson drained a 3-pointer to give Smith his 10th assist with 7:46 remaining.
“It will be neat to look back years down the road; this will always tie Coach Pearl and I together.’’
Cameron Tatum, Josh Tabb and J.P. Prince each scored 10 points for the 10th-ranked Vols as they built a 16-point halftime lead on the defending Big South Conference champs.
The Bulldogs (3-4) entered the game coming off their worst loss in school history, a 116-48 defeat at the hands of No. 1-ranked North Carolina on Sunday night.
Still, the Vols couldn’t build a double-digit lead until Smith drove the lane at the 4:03 mark of the first half to make it 31-21.
“I think you saw a little bit of what I saw in practice yesterday, and that’s a basketball team that is getting ready for finals and just not really inspired,’’ said Pearl, who ran his players through extra conditioning work Tuesday. “That’s what happens with a team of young players.’’
Pearl said he didn’t yell at his team in the postgame, as he sometimes does after sub-par performances.
“I was just honest . . . we’ll chalk it up to what it is,’’ Pearl said. “Coming off a big (Old Spice Classic) tournament, there is something to three games in four days and the travel.
“It takes a couple of days to recover, and we recovered well enough to win.’’
Pearl praised Smith’s triple-double accomplishment while downplaying the significance of his 400th coaching win.
“When you’re in the middle of a season, it’s not a time to reflect,’’ said Pearl, whose career mark is 400-109.
Only five coaches — Adolph Rupp (477), Clair Bee (483), Jerry Tarkanian (492), Roy Williams (496) and Henry Iba (500) reached 400 victories quicker.
But the only five that mattered to Pearl on Wednesday was his starting five, which might not be the same when the Vols play at Temple on Dec. 13.
“We’re gonna have two scrimmages in this next period, and we’re gonna compete,’’ Pearl said. “Four out of five positions are up for grabs.’’
Smith, understandably, is the only player who has cemented his starting spot at power forward.
Pearl said the players’ classroom performance also will be considered.
Brian Williams started in place of Wayne Chism at the post Wednesday; Prince didn’t start at small forward on account of a stomach virus that required I.V. fluids.
The Vols will take today off before returning to practice Friday.