As thousands flocked through the entry gates on a mild December day at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Vols were looking to notch their best 12-game start since the 2007-08 season.
Following a long Holiday break, Grant Williams would gift a near-capacity crowd with another holiday treat.
The junior forward scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds as third-ranked Tennessee leveled the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 96-53.
Admiral Schofield scored 16 points, Jordan Bone had 16 points and 10 assists and John Fulkerson added 15 points off the bench as the Vols come out victorious for the seventh consecutive game.
“The big thing we’ve talked about is trying to be disciplined,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “We wanted to play without fouling today and other than the defensive breakdowns off the ball-screen action we were okay.”
Doing a vast majority of his damage early, Williams would have a field day during the game’s opening minutes.
Accounting for 35 percent of Tennessee’s 51 first half points, the former Providence Day School star connected on eight of his nine shot attempts over that stretch as the Vols used a 12-2 run to race out to a double-digit lead.
In the midst of an onslaught that featured an array of dunks and transition scores, Barnes’ team put forth their best shooting effort in a half this season, hitting on 74 percent of their total shot attempts.
While not known as a prolific scoring team, Tennessee has now put up 90 or more points on four different occasions this season, garnering wins over Memphis and then-first ranked Gonzaga.
With Williams and Bone leading the way, the Vols took an 18-point lead in to the intermission despite attempting just three three-pointers during that span.
It was a tidal wave of energy and focus that propelled Tennessee to a dominant opening half performance and Tennessee’s emotional leader took notice heading into the locker room.
“We’re starting to get our legs under us,” Schofield said. “We have to be able to take care of our bodies but also understand we have to go out there and play at a high level.”
While Tennessee’s offensive production slightly dipped in the second half, Williams quietly continued to go to work.
Hitting on both of his shot attempts to close the game, the Charlotte, N.C. native spurred a closing effort that saw the Vols embark on a 20-0 run across an eight-minute stretch.
Finding themselves without a basket for nearly nine minutes over the closing stretch, the Golden Eagles saw their field goal percentage plummet to 26 percent over the final 20 minutes.
It was that defensive effort that carried the Vols across the finish line.
“We don’t ever want to come out and start the second half flat,” Bone said. “Taking that from last year, the first five tries to come out with some energy so we can hold that momentum.”