Tennessee’s exhibition opener was about what Vols coach Bruce Pearl expected.
“Not pleased, but what I expected it would look like,’’ Pearl said after his 14th-ranked team defeated Division II Indianapolis 87-73 Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. “There’s cause for some concern.’’
Scotty Hopson and Tyler Smith led the Vols with 14 points apiece, Wayne Chism scored 12, Emmanuel Negedu 11 and Bobby Maze added 10.
UT was down 11-2 four minutes into the game before the crowd of 18,378 and didn’t lead until the nine-minute mark when a Smith dunk made it 20-19.
The Greyhounds fought back to take a 25-24 lead with a 6-0 run capped by a Keith Radcliff basket with 9:08 left in the half.
The Vols didn’t take the lead for good until Negedu scored on a tip at the 8:50 mark, igniting a 9-0 run en route to a 46-31 halftime lead.
Even then, Indy hit five of its first six shots to start the second half, leading Pearl to conclude he didn’t like the bigger lineup he started with Brian Williams at center, Chism at forward and Smith at wing.
“I know size matters, but I didn’t like it,’’ Pearl said. “That group there didn’t defend.’’
Meanwhile, walk-on Michael Hubert made a name for himself at point guard.
The player Pearl erroneously called “Mark’’ until a week ago saw 10 minutes of action.
“I just learned his last name today,’’ Pearl said. “He made the team during (walk-on) tryouts, so he’s been on the team two weeks.
“Believe it or not, he got cut a couple of years ago by Chattanooga. He wasn’t good enough to walk on at Chattanooga, but he was good enough to be in my backcourt.’’
Daniel West, projected to back up Maze at the point, remains academically ineligible. J.P. Prince, the next option, injured his shoulder last week. Josh Tabb was benched because of academics. Tanner Wild, a walk-on, albeit an experienced one, had a bad back.
“You don’t normally go six-deep with 13 scholarships,’’ Pearl said. “But Mike did a terrific job, he got 10 minutes, didn’t turn the ball over and kept us in the game.’’
Turnovers were a problem for the rest of the Vols: the team committed 20, many unforced. Pearl was also unhappy with the way UT defended.
“We haven’t been together long enough to develop a character,’’ Pearl said.
UT returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena for its second and final exhibition game against Tusculum before opening the regular season at home at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 against Chattanooga.
Preseason Honors: Smith was the Vols’ sole representative on the Coaches All-SEC preseason first team while Chism and Prince were named second team. Smith was also among vote getters for Associated Press preseason All-American honors.