Tennessee pours it on late to beat Gardner-Webb 89-64
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee's Devon Baulkman matched a career high in scoring Sunday and put the Volunteers ahead for good with his 3-point shooting.
He was more excited about the way he performed on the other end of the floor.
''I'm happier with my defensive effort because that's what I've been working on,'' Baulkman said after scoring 22 points in an 89-64 victory over Gardner-Webb. ''I'm trying to be a great defender. The offense is going to naturally come.''
Baulkman's all-around play helped Tennessee take control down the stretch after blowing a 19-point lead.
Tennessee led 34-15 in the first half, but Gardner-Webb clawed back into the game and eventually took a 57-55 lead on Tyrell Nelson's 3-point play with 10:26 remaining.
Baulkman put Tennessee back ahead for good by sinking a 3-pointer with 9:21 left. He ended up scoring eight straight points during a 9-0 spurt that helped Tennessee (3-1) regain command.
Kevin Punter and Baulkman shot a combined 11 of 20 from 3-point range for Tennessee, which closed the game on a 34-7 run. Punter was 5 of 10 on 3-pointers and scored 24 points. Baulkman was 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
''Coach told me any good look I get, just shoot it - and shoot it with confidence,'' Baulkman said. ''Don't think about it. Just shoot it.''
Robert Hubbs added 17 points and Armani Moore had 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds as Tennessee won its 57th consecutive November home game. The Vols haven't lost a November home game since Nov. 29, 1995, when they fell 79-76 to Charlotte, then known as UNC Charlotte.
Harold McBride had 17 points to lead Gardner-Webb (1-3). Nelson added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Tennessee seemed on its way to putting this one away early thanks to Gardner-Webb's cold shooting, but the Runnin' Bulldogs' zone defense helped get them back into the game and briefly take the lead.
''A lot of that's my fault,'' Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. ''We haven't spent enough time working against zone. Today was good for us.''
After Gardner-Webb pulled ahead, Baulkman took over and helped Tennessee get back in control.
Gardner-Webb wouldn't threaten again.
''Obviously Tennessee handled those last 10 minutes the way you've got to handle them to win the game,'' Garner-Webb coach Tim Craft said ''And we did not.''
Gardner-Webb: Freshman guard Justin Jenkins is a Knoxville native and the son of Fred Jenkins, who scored 1,139 career points while playing for Tennessee from 1983-87. Jenkins didn't play Sunday, as he's redshirting this season.
Tennessee: The Vols improved to 3-0 at home this season after losing their final five home games last season.
GOING TO BROOKLYN
This marked Tennessee's first game in the Barclays Center Classic. The Vols also host Army on Tuesday before playing two games later this week at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Tennessee will face George Washington on Friday at Brooklyn before meeting either Cincinnati or Nebraska on Saturday.
Tennessee's Punter and Gardner-Webb's McBride grew up together in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. They're such close friends that they refer to each other as brothers.
Both players displayed their shooting skills while facing off Sunday. McBride had 14 points by halftime and shot 4 of 10 from 3-point range. Punter was the game's top scorer.
''It was fun playing against somebody back home,'' McBride said. ''All the people back home were watching. It was just fun playing against like a brother on the other side.''
Gardner-Webb: At George Washington on Tuesday.
Tennessee: Hosts Army on Tuesday.
This story has been corrected to show that Tyrell Nelson scored 15 points, not 13.