Tennessee set a school record with its 34th consecutive home-court victory Tuesday night, not that coach Bruce Pearl noticed or cared.
The Vols entered the game having tied the mark, set in the Stokely Athletics Center from Jan. 2, 1966, to Feb. 24, 1968. UT’s current streak stands as the third longest active streak in the nation behind BYU (48) and Notre Dame (38).
Pearl was in no mood to celebrate UT’s 91-64 victory over UT Martin in Thompson-Boling Arena, much less the record.
“Our effort was inconsistent and our execution left a lot to be desired,” Pearl said.
Sophomore post Brian Williams provided a bright spot for the 19,761 in attendance, scoring a career-high 21 points and pulling down 12 rebounds for his second career double-double.
Tyler Smith had 19 points. Wayne Chism (11 points, 10 rebounds), J.P. Prince (11) and Cameron Tatum (10) were the other UT players to score in double figures.
Still, the team looked out-of-sync at times — particularly in the second half.
The 14th-ranked Vols (2-0) connected on 2-of-17 shots from beyond the 3-point arc — the lowest total in Pearl’s run-and-gun era, and UT’s fewest since making two against Belmont in Chris Lofton’s freshman year (2004).
UT Martin (1-1) didn’t shoot much better from the perimeter, making only 9 of 36 shots beyond the arc.
Lester Hudson, the Skyhawks’ celebrated NBA draft prospect, was held in check most of the way, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the second half after the game had been decided.
Point guard Bobby Maze had as much to do with Hudson’s sub-par performance (7-of-22 shooting, four turnovers) as anyone.
Tennessee used a number of different players on Hudson at different times, but Maze was the best matchup.
“I told coach I wanted to guard him,” said Maze, who had four points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals. “I wanted to take on the challenge.”
Maze has played a good deal of pickup against such NBA stars as Kevin Durant, Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups and Michael Beasley, so intimidation wasn’t going to be a factor.
“The first thing you have to do is deny him the ball,’’ said Maze, who didn’t allow Hudson to score on him. “You also use your team to help you, and that’s talking on defense. It’s not just the one person on the ball; it’s team defense.”
It led to the Vols jumping out to a 14-2 lead with a 12-0 run capped by a Maze steal and layup at the 16:21 mark.
UT’s press forced 15 turnovers in the first half. Without using the press in the second half, the Vols forced only three turnovers over the final 20 minutes.
“I thought we played pretty well to start, but we couldn’t maintain that level of excellence,” Pearl said. “Our intensity was mixed, and we didn’t value the basketball. Too many ally-oops, and too many guys trying to do some things out of character.”
Scotty Hopson was the poster child for the young Vols’ inconsistency, scoring five points on 2-of-5 shooting and not getting any rebounds in his 18 minutes.
“Scotty wasn’t excited about playing,” Pearl said. “Self-admittedly, he was like `I gotta get myself ready to play.’
“Freshman are going to be inconsistent.”
And when they are, Pearl is going to be as disappointed.