The box score said Bobby Maze launched his Tennessee career with 10 assists Saturday night. That's not the whole story.
After the horn sounded and the opening-night crowd of 21,864 emptied out of Thompson-Boling Arena, he added a few more.
Assist No. 11 - "I have to give credit to my guys on my team that finished for me, or none of this would have been possible,'' said Maze.
There was, in fact, a lot of finishing going on in a 114-75 rout of Chattanooga. Six Vols scored in double figures: Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism, Scotty Hopson, Cameron Tatum, J.P. Price and Maze himself.
Assist No. 12 - "Wayne really rebounded and made some outstanding outlets to me to start the break.''
Of Chism's 13 rebounds, 11 came off the defensive glass to help Maze and assorted Vols trigger a blistering go-go tempo.
Assist No. 13 - "That crowd was so unbelievable. This is big-time basketball. This is the SEC. I'm just so happy to say I play for Tennessee.''
The feeling was mutual as far as coach Bruce Pearl, Maze's teammates and a somewhat apprehensive fan base are concerned.
I say somewhat apprehensive because opening night can be a delicate affair - especially when you're blending in so many new faces. Don't take my word for it, ask Kentucky.
Tennessee needed only about five minutes to warp into March Madness speed. There was plenty of praise to be shared among veterans and newcomers alike. But in basketball, things so often start with point-guard play.
The Vols last season managed to win a school-record 31 games and an SEC championship despite not having consistent play at the point.
Ramar Smith and Jordan Howell did a tag-team dance most of the way, though the point was neither one's true position. As a last resort, J.P. Prince was asked to take over in the NCAA tournament.
With Smith and Howell moving on - and even if they hadn't - Tennessee had an urgent need to land a true point guard.
"Nobody in the country,'' Pearl said Saturday,'' had a bigger need at point guard than we did.''
So assistant coach Steve Forbes was charged with finding the best junior-college guard in the land. He found Maze at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
Maze wasn't your average juco guard. He had started games at Oklahoma as a freshman. He knew, given UT's dire need, he'd be starting games in Knoxville.
Sure enough, he started opening night and dished out 10 assists. Nobody on the team last year had 10 assists in any game.
Maze also made only one turnover in 28 minutes, and scored 12 points to boot.
But this night was about assists. The Vols had a school-record 32 of them, surpassing the 31, also recorded on a previous opening night, a 118-86 victory over Tennessee Tech in 1988-89.
What a difference a top-shelf point guard makes. Chattanooga coach John Shulman, who also played the Vols last season, is already in the Bobby Maze Fan Club.
And it wasn't even Maze's play-making that most impressed Shulman. It was his harassing defense at the point of attack.
"I'm just going to tell you,'' said Shulman, "I was a Jordan Howell fan, a JaJuan Smith fan and a (Chris) Lofton fan, but it ain't even close.
"Maze did a great job pressuring the ball. (Chattanooga's point guard) was backing his way in, trying to run our offense and that's a bad sign when your point guard is with his back to the basket 43 feet away.
"I thought Maze dominated the game.''
None of his teammates were arguing that point.
They like to run and he helped them run. They like to score and he helped them score. Most of all they like to win and he helped them win.
"It starts with great point-guard play,'' said Tatum, "and Bobby Maze played a great game tonight.''
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or email@example.com.