The Tennessee men’s basketball team’s second attempt at a second-half comeback proved more fruitful than its first, and the Vols beat USC Upstate 74-65 in their home opener at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday night.
UT (1-1) put together a 20-4 run after halftime to overcome a Spartan team that led by as many as 13. The comeback kept UT from starting 0-2 for the first time since losses to Michigan and Vanderbilt under former coach Ray Mears in the 1965-66 season.
Senior point guard Jordan McRae led the Vols with 18 points. Forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon both contributed double-doubles. Stokes had 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Maymon had 15 points, 11 boards.
USC Upstate senior forward Torrey Craig scored 20 points for the Spartans. Bearden High School alum Ty Greene scored 15.
The Vols seemed to sidestep the slow start that doomed them in their season-opening loss to Xavier. They took a 5-0 lead thanks to an Antonio Barton 3-pointer. Even Stokes, who scored only four points before fouling out against the Musketeers, found traction early with an easy lay up.
But USC Upstate answered and took a 42-35 lead to halftime.
Stokes wore the Spartans down in the second half. It wasn’t always pretty (he made five of 17 shots from the field), but he was solid from the free-throw line (7-of-8).
UT plays The Citadel on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.