Trae Golden scored 17 points and tallied 11 assists as Tennessee found its niche in the second half to beat Louisiana-Monroe 85-62 on Wednesday night.
The game featured eight lead changes before the Volunteers (2-0) outscored their visitors 52-29 after intermission.
"I thought we picked it up in the second half defensively," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "We kept our composure and made the necessary switches on their cuts and tight curls. When they went small a couple times, I thought our big guys did a good job the last 10 minutes of the game of really switching when they had the four guards out there."
Tennessee opened the contest with a 9-0 lead before the Warhawks (0-3) battled back in the latter portion of the first half. Louisiana-Monroe scored seven unanswered points to go up 16-15 after a Fred Brown 3-pointer with 10:25 on the clock.
That advantage lasted just 44 seconds before Skylar McBee countered for Tennessee with a 3-pointer of his own. Golden followed with a pair of free throws to put the hosts up 20-16 at the 8:59 mark, but the score differential only narrowed from there and the teams were knotted at 33-all at the break.
"We were pretty excited," Hugh Mingo, who scored 11 points for the Warhawks said. "We knew we had them where we wanted them."
Fabio Ribeiro's bucket with 13:45 to play in the second half gave Louisiana-Monroe a 48-46 lead. Then Tennessee countered with a 9-0 run that was capped by a McBee 3-pointer with 11:26 on the clock.
Tennessee didn't trail again. Playing with just seven scholarship players, the Warhawks faded down the stretch.
"The second half, the first 10 minutes, even though we were up four points, I kept looking up at the score and the pace was faster," Louisiana-Monroe coach Keith Richard said. "That's not good for us, a little fool's gold for us. We got too happy with how we were playing, started playing a little faster in the half-court offense, led to some bad shots ... and that's your ballgame."
Dwight Miller's jumper at the 10:46 mark sparked a 17-5 scoring binge for the Vols, leaving them comfortably in front 72-55.
McBee finished with 15 points for the Volunteers, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
With a matchup against No. 2 Duke in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational looming on Monday, perhaps the Vols were looking past the Warhawks.
"I think coach Martin did a good job stressing that we can't overlook an opponent," McBee said. "I don't think we did tonight. I think we didn't come out with as much energy in the first half as what we needed to, but we picked it up in the second half and got a pretty good lead there at the end. We really responded and it paid off for us."
Cameron Tatum contributed 13 points with three 3s for the Vols. Jeronne Maymon's double-double included 11 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Richardson pitched in 11 points.
"We were a lot more patient," Maymon said of the second half. "We just waited more on offense to develop some of our shots."
Tennessee won the rebounding battle 46-27 and got a pair of blocks from both Kenny Hall and Jordan McRae.
Brown paced Louisiana-Monroe with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Mingo provided 11 points and seven rebounds.