ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands — The Tennessee men’s basketball team was jammin’ in the Caribbean on Friday afternoon.
The 10th-ranked Vols scored a 105-66 victory over East Carolina in the first round of the Paradise Jam.
Tennessee (3-0) forced the Pirates (1-3) into 35 turnovers, the most in coach Bruce Pearl’s five-year tenure with the Vols.
“I guess it does surprise me a little bit; they had almost as many turnovers as shots (38),’’ Pearl said. “We’re doing different things with the press . . . and the guys are wanting to press and therefor are willing to accept the adjustments.
“But DePaul had only eight turnovers in their (win) against Northern Iowa, so we’ll see what we do.’’
The Vols play the Blue Demons (2-0) in the semifinals on Sunday (TV: FSS, 6 p.m.) at the University of Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center. DePaul advanced Friday by defeating Northern Iowa 60-52.
UT figures to be well-rested; none of the Vols played more than 23 minutes against East Carolina.
“Depth is an advantage in a half, in a game and over the course of a season,’’ Pearl said. “We want to try to make it our advantage all the way through.’’
The Vols took advantage of the sizzling shooting of sophomore Scotty Hopson, who continued his season-opening tear with a game-high 25 points.
Hopson connected on 10 of 15 shots against East Carolina, including 4 of 5 beyond the 3-point arc.
“You continue to see what Scotty Hopson is all about,’’ Pearl said. “He’s so much more aggressive and more comfortable offensively. It’s within the flow, he’s not forcing anything.’’
Hopson was most proud of the way the defense forced the action against East Carolina, closing out the game with relentless pressure and effort.
“This is a totally different team than last year,’’ said Hopson, who’s shooting 77.7 percent (14-of-18) from beyond the 3-point arc this season. “Our depth has an effect on teams, and we’re not gonna let up.’’
Bobby Maze scored 15 points, Cameron Tatum came off the bench to score 14, Tyler Smith had 13 and Melvin Goins had 10 and a team-high five assists.
Smith and Tatum also had four steals apiece for the Vols, who had 17 as a team.
“Tyler had a great game, just so solid,’’ Pearl said. “And Cam, he comes in right after J.P. (Prince, at the wing), and what an advantage. You’ve got to have a knack for being able to come off the bench and play like that.’’
East Carolina coach Mack McCarthy was impressed.
“They certainly wore us down,’’ McCarthy said. “They don’t lose much when they go to the bench.’’
The Pirates out-rebounded the Vols, 28-23, but Pearl didn’t seem too concerned on account of the circumstances.
“They had six offensive rebounds to our 15 defensive rebounds, that’s OK,’’ Pearl said. “Offensively, we had eight rebounds, but we didn’t miss much.’’
The Vols shot 40-of-69 (58 percent) from the floor and were 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) from 3-point range.
Brock Young led the Pirates with 15 points and four assists, but the point guard also turned the ball over 12 times. Young was second in the nation last season with 227 assists.
Orange Slices: Friday’s game was Pearl’s first against a Conference USA opponent other than Memphis. . . . UT is 45-36 all-time againstConference USA opponents. . . . The Vols’ only prior meeting with DePaul was in 1973, when UT scored a 96-61 victory.