Tennessee erases 16-point deficit, beats Marshall 84-74
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee coach Rick Barnes still has plenty of questions about his Volunteers.
Their willingness to persevere amid adversity isn't one of them.
Armani Moore scored a career-high 20 points as Tennessee rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit Thursday in an 84-74 victory over Marshall that spoiled the Thundering Herd's season opener. Tennessee pulled off its biggest comeback since rallying from 17 point s down to beat Vanderbilt 67-64 on Jan. 15, 2011.
''The one thing is I told them they got themselves in that hole but they also found a way to get themselves out of it,'' Barnes said.
Kevin Punter and Robert Hubbs each added 19 points - a career high for Hubbs - and sparked a 26-2 run that put Tennessee (2-1) in front for good. Punter scored 17 of his points after halftime. Devon Baulkman had 13 points.
Marshall led 51-35 with less than 15 minutes left before Tennessee began its comeback. The Volunteers' 26-2 run included one stretch in which they scored 19 straight points.
''That's all we were talking about in our huddle, (that) we've got to find a way,'' Punter said.
Ryan Taylor had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Marshall. Stevie Browning also had 18 points. James Kelly added 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Although Marshall was coming off an 11-21 season and had lost an exhibition game 101-89 to Division II school Newberry on Sunday, the Thundering Herd gave Tennessee all it could handle.
After leading 38-35 at halftime, Marshall opened the second half on a 13-0 run and owned a 51-35 lead after Kelly's basket with 14:59 remaining.
''We have such a small room for error,'' Barnes said. ''I think right now guys are still trying to figure out what they want to do as opposed to what we have to do as a team to win consistently.''
Marshall's16-point lead vanished in less than four minutes.
Hubbs got Tennessee's first points of the second half on a layup with 14:36 left. And once the Vols finally began scoring again, they couldn't stop.
Tennessee continually got to the foul line during that comeback and was in the bonus with 12:15 left in the game. The Vols were 25 of 30 on free throws, including 23 of 28 in the second half. Marshall was 11 of 14.
''They outscored us 14 points from the free-throw line - and won by 10,'' Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. ''That was a big part of it.''
Marshall: The loss to Tennessee ended a string of nine consecutive season-opening victories for the Thundering Herd. Marshall's last loss in a season opener was 91-81 at Evansville in 2005.
Tennessee: The Volunteers earned their 56th consecutive November home victory. The Volunteers haven't lost a November home game since 1995.
Marshall was one of the last two Division I teams to open its regular season. Alcorn State was scheduled to play its opener later Thursday night against Grand Canyon.
DOING THE DIRTY WORK
Although Tennessee's Derek Reese scored only two points, he had a career-high 13 rebounds. The 6-foot-7 senior also matched a career high with four blocks. ''That's my job and that's my role,'' Reese said. ''It's funny, me and coach made a deal. He said if I get 10 rebounds, I can shoot a 3 - or I can ask him to shoot a 3.''
Marshall: Visits Morehead State on Tuesday.
Tennessee: Hosts Gardner-Webb on Sunday.
This story has been corrected to show that it was Tennessee's biggest comeback since 2011, and that Marshall's 16-point lead vanished in less than four minutes, rather than less than 3 1/2 minutes.