Bruce Pearl on opening win
Just prior to the season-opening tip Tennessee unveiled a banner commemorating its Elite Eight appearance last year and proceeded to play like a team intent on returning there.
"That (Elite Eight) was last year, but now it's time to start working on getting back to it,'' Vols junior Cameron Tatum said. "That starts with setting the tone right now.''
The 23rd-ranked Vols scored an 82-62 victory over Chattanooga in both teams' season opener Friday night before a crowd of 20,613 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tobias Harris led four UT players who scored in double figures with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
"Tobias is special,'' Vols coach Bruce Pearl said. "He's super solid. A good coach would get him more shots, and this coach will find a way to get him more looks.''
Goins was particularly active on defense, leading the Vols with four steals.
"I feel like our defense starts with my ball pressure,'' Goins said. "I try to get those loose balls and get those steals. I was very focused and dialed in this week because I wanted to get that taste out of our mouths.''
The foul flavor resonating throughout the week was a result of a 79-64 exhibition loss to Division II Indianapolis on Monday that sent shockwaves across the country.
"We realized we had to bounce back from that,'' Tatum said. "This is our floor, and we want to protect it.''
UT (1-0) took a 45-26 lead into the half on the strength of Goins' 13 points and Harris' 12 through the first 20 minutes.
Harris, a true freshman, scored seven consecutive points as the Vols jumped to an early 14-3 lead before going up by as many as 22 in the first half.
"That (seven-point) run was big for me,'' Harris said. "It set the tone for us coming out and handling our business.
"I'm getting more comfortable each time I'm out on the floor.''
The Mocs (0-1) weren't able to cut into the UT lead after the half, falling behind by as many as 31 points with 6:48 remaining when Harris banked in his final bucket of the night.
Guard Keegan Bell led Chattanooga scorers with 20 points, canning six of 10 shots beyond the 3-point arc, and Johnson City's Omar Wattad had 13 points in his first game for the Mocs since transferring back to the Volunteer State from Georgetown.
"Our guys did a pretty good job defensively; they shot 26 percent from three and 33 percent from the field,'' Pearl said. "The fact that we had 35 defensive rebounds to their seven offensive rebounds was significant. We didn't give them many second shots, we were more physical.
"Our fast beak was good, our point guards did extremely well advancing the ball.''
Another positive step was in the turnover department, where the Vols suffered only 11 while forcing the Mocs to turn the ball over 19 times.
Pearl was concerned, however, with UT's lack of offensive production at the post position.
Starter Brian Williams had eight rebounds but failed to score in his 22 minutes, missing all four shots he attempted.
"I need a stronger presence at the five (post),'' Pearl said. "I need a five-man that wants the ball.''
Sophomore post Kenny Hall, who had not worked with the starters this week after re-aggravating a foot injury, played five minutes off the bench and scored four points.
UT returns to action at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday against Belmont in its first game of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Vols will play at 7 p.m. Wednesday, regardless of the outcome of their game on Tuesday. Should UT win, it will play the winner of Tuesday night's 7 p.m. Arkansas State-Missouri State game, which is also at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee needs to win both of next week's games to advance to play in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 24 and Nov. 26.
Attendance: Friday's attendance (20,613) was bigger than last year's season opener with Austin Peay (17,963) and ranked as the fourth largest for a season opener in the Pearl Era. UT drew 21,864 two years ago, the most recent time it had played Chattanooga.
The school record for a season opener was set in 1987, when UT had 25,272 on hand for the first regular season game in Thompson-Boling Arena, an 82-56 victory over Marquette.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. He may be reached at 865-755-5599. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mgrif32 and at http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/