Tennessee senior forward Kenny Hall was quick to say there was "a whole different setting" in the Vols' halftime locker room against Oakland on Monday night.
The scene didn't match the 23-point lead hanging on the Thompson-Boling Arena scoreboard. It looks like lessons were learned from those second-half lapses against non-power conference teams from Kennesaw State and UNC Asheville.
Each win saw halftime cheering. Each also saw healthy halftime leads shrink to uncomfortable levels.
"We'd go in thinking about all the highlight plays or all the offensive things we did," Hall remembered.
So there was no cheering Monday. The resulting second-half result showed the difference. The Vols' lead over Oakland never shrank below 19 points, swelled to as many as 29 and finished up as a 77-50 men's basketball victory for Tennessee (4-1).
"We should expect this type of performance every game so there's no need for any celebration until after the game," said UT sophomore Jarnell Stokes, who scored 11 of his game-high 19 points after halftime.
Defense was the rallying cry against Oakland. The Vols held Oakland to 5-of-32 shooting in the first half and 16-of-55 shooting overall.
Oakland (2-5) stunned Tennessee in an 89-82 win in Knoxville in 2010 and an 89-81 home win last season.
There was none of that Monday night. An early 13-0 run powered a 15-2 UT lead and the Vols never looked back.
"You get those big leads and you have a mental letdown, and that's part of human nature, but it's also, for us, having to mature as a team to stay in tuned and try to finish ball games," said coach Cuonzo Martin.
Monday showed maturity.
UT outscored Oakland 42-22 in the paint and 15-2 on fastbreak points after entering the night with just 14 fastbreak points through four games this season.
Defense earned the victory, though. The Vols drew two early charging fouls on Oakland and swarmed the perimeter, including a highlight blocked shot by Jordan McRae on a 3-point attempt by Grizzlies guard Duke Mondy.
"When we stop them on the shot clock, that's when Coach Martin shows the most emotion," Golden said. "I throw a no-look to Jarnell, Coach Martin, he don't care. But when we get a 35, you look over there and he's screaming and jumping around."
Golden finished with his best stat line of the young season — 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, seven assists and one turnover.
Oakland's big gun, shooting guard Travis Bader, was holstered. The junior entered the night third in the country with 22 made 3-pointers. Against the Vols, he scored 18 points, but made just five of 14 shots from the field and only a pair of 3s.
The Grizzlies cut UT's lead to 53-34 with 9:32 left only to watch the Vols score on their next eight possessions. The defense matched the intensity. Just like that, it was 73-44.
"I feel like if we defend the way we did today, we can't be beat," Stokes said.
That theory will be tested Friday. Tennessee will travel to No. 20 Georgetown for the SEC/Big East Challenge. The Hoyas boast four starters over 6-foot-7 and a 4-1 record featuring a win over UCLA and a narrow overtime loss to No. 1 Indiana.
After going 2-1 at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last week, UT went back to basics at practice the last eight days. It showed against Oakland.
"I don't think we played that well in Puerto Rico," Martin said. "I thought we did a good job of competing against UMass, but those first two games, I don't think we played well at all."
"I knew after the performance we gave against Oklahoma State — we played horrible defensively — I anticipated coach getting back to how he was in the preseason," Stokes responded. "Guys knew it was coming. It was a long eight days, but it helped us today."
Hall scored nine points to go with 11 rebounds against Oakland, while Skylar McBee and Quinton Chievous added six apiece. The Vols finished 28-for-53 from the field and made 15-of-20 free throws, their best showing of the season from the stripe.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn