Josh Richardson on his 11-point effort in UT's win
The Tennessee players' travel bags were packed and shipped off for Hawaii on Wednesday afternoon.
For several minutes Wednesday night, it appeared the Vols allowed their minds to wander over the Pacific Ocean as well.
Tennessee reasserted itself in the second half, pulling away for an 85-62 victory over Louisiana Monroe before an announced crowd of 14,751 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"We probably got a little ahead of ourselves,'' said UT power forward Jeronne Maymon, who recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. "Our bags left today, and our mindset probably wasn't where it should have been. But we got it together after halftime.''
The Warhawks (0-3) led by four points early in the second half behind the explosive scoring of senior guard Fred Brown (18 points), a transfer from Kansas State.
Sophomore point guard Trae Golden led five Vols (2-0) in double-figure scoring, joining Maymon in the double-double club with 17 points to go with 11 assists. Skylar McBee hit five 3-pointers for his 15 points, Cameron Tatum had 13 points, and freshman wing Josh Richardson added 11.
The Vols travel to Hawaii this morning in preparation for an EA Sports Maui Invitational showdown with No. 6 Duke (3-0) at 5:30 p.m. on Monday (TV: ESPN2).
UT used a 16-3 run midway
through the second half to break open Wednesday's game. Golden sparked the rally with three free throws with 13:28 left to give UT a 49-48 advantage, a lead it would not relinquish.
"I was depressed about the first half; I had three turnovers,'' Golden said. "We had taken our foot off the pedal, and that's something we have to work on.''
The Vols jumped to a quick 8-0 lead, hitting three of their first four shots, and they extended the lead to 15-6 on a McBee 3-pointer at the 12-minute mark.
ULM, which opened its season with losses to Ole Miss (60-38last Friday) and Indiana State (71-59 on Monday), answered with a 10-0 run, taking its first lead at 16-15 on a Brown trey.
Four lead changes followed before Tatum (13 points) sank a pair of free throws with 41.9 seconds left in the half to make it 33-33 heading into the locker room.
"We get up 9-0, and the focus goes from putting the team away through our defense to let's get shots up,'' UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy. At the end of the day, we were the better team, but you know anything can happen.
"The thing for me that was impressive, was we had just one turnover in the second half.''
The Vols had 10 turnovers in the first half and continued to struggle with interior scoring; both teams had eight points in the paint.
Martin made the adjustment to forgo size for quickness at the post, inserting 6-foot-8 transfer Dwight Miller for the 6-9 Hall, whose considerably longer than Miller despite what the modest height differential might suggest.
Miller responded by scoring all seven of his points in the second half while also pulling down six rebounds in his 15 minutes on the floor.
Richardson was another newcomer who emerged. Seeing minutes at point guard and on the wing, Richardson scored his 11 points in the second half.
"We were dead in the first half and just giving them whatever they wanted,'' Richardson said. "In the second half, we generated some energy, started talking to each other on defense, and it came together.''
Martin said freshman back-up point guard Wes Washpun didn't play on account of a leg injury, and he added that he doesn't plan any changes to the starting lineup.
"The thing I've learned is we have some pieces,'' Martin said. "But I think now it's about what our guys have learned and what they feel. I think we're a good team.''
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32