It was all about the treys - and Trae - for Tennessee on Friday night.
Sophomore point guard Trae Golden erupted with career highs of 29 points, nine assists and six rebounds, and the Vols shot a collective 15 of 24 from beyond the 3-point line.
It added up to a 92-63 season-opening triumph over the University of North Carolina at Greensboro before a crowd of 17,483 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Golden was 5-of-9 shooting beyond the 3-point arc and scored on three, three-point plays against the Southern Conference's Spartans.
"It's a great feeling when you have this type of fan support and energy,'' said UT coach Cuonzo Martin, asked about his regular-season debut. "It's humbling to be head coach anywhere, but to be the head coach at Tennessee is certainly an honor and a privilege I don't take for granted.
"Our guys are hungry to be good, they have a passion to play, and they play with a chip on their shoulder.''
Golden is performing like he has something to prove. Golden made only one start last season — ironically, against Martin and Missouri State. UNCG gave him a golden opportunity to show his improved shooting.
"I felt they challenged me to shoot the three,'' said Golden, whose previous career-high scoring was eight points. "I only shot about 25 percent (6 of 33, 18.2 percent, from 3-point range) last season, so I would challenge me, too.''
UT's 15 made 3-pointers fell one short of the school's single-game record of 16, reached on five occasions. The Vols shot 64.6 percent from the floor in the game, the best team effort since UT made 64.9 percent in a 109-40 win over Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 20, 2007. The Vols ascended to their first No. 1 ranking and finished that historic regular season as SEC champions rated No. 1 in the RPI rankings and No. 1 in schedule strength.
Appropriately enough, former Tennessee All-American Chris Lofton, the SEC's all-time leading 3-point shooter and the captain of UT's 31-5 2007-08 team, was court side Friday.
UT was off and running from the opening tip, jumping to an 8-0 lead on baskets by Jeronne Maymon (career-high 15 points), Jordan McRae (career-high 14 points) and Golden.
The score was 13-2 before UNCG, which returned four starters from last season's 7-24 squad, scored its first field goal.
The Vols extended their lead with a 12-2 run at the end of the first half for a 49-30 advantage heading to the locker room.
Golden scored 19 points in the opening 20 minutes, including three straight treys, before Martin took him out for good with 8:02 left to play and UT leading 79-53.
Renaldo Woolridge had 11 points, marking the first time the senior scored in double figures since UT beat then-No. 1 Kansas on Jan. 10, 2010, when Woolridge had 14 points.
Guard Korey Van Dussen led UNCG with 12 points.
It was UT's 20th consecutive home-opening win and 13th straight season-opening victory. Martin's the eighth consecutive UT men's basketball coach to win his first game.
The Vols return to action Wednesday against Louisiana Monroe. Game time is 7 p.m. The game will not be televised.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32