KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- The top-seeded Vols scored the first 10 points of their NIT First Round game with Savannah State and never trailed the rest of the way in a 65-51 victory on Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Tigers got within two points in the second half, but could never overtake the Vols.
Tennessee (19-14) will play host to a second-round game on a day to be determined (between March 15-19). The Vols will host the winner of the No. 4 Middle Tennessee-No. 5 Marshall game which is taking place right now.
A trio of freshmen keyed the victory as junior All-SEC bigman Jeronne Maymon was sidelined with a sore knee. Vols freshmen scored a combined 33 points, the most by rookies in a game this season.
SEC All-Freshman selection Jarnell Stokes led the Vols with 13 points, his seventh game in double-figures this season.
Making his first-career start, freshman Yemi Makanjuola tallied 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. It was his best game since a career-high vs. The Citadel (12/29/11), when he had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Fellow rookie Josh Richardson had his best scoring game in four months with 10 points.
Sophomore Trae Golden scored 11 for his 11th game in row in double-figures and 26th game this season. Junior Skylar McBee canned three 3-pointers for nine points.
Savannah State (21-12) was led by Rashad Hassan (20 points and 13 rebounds) and Preston Blackman (14 points).
The Vols held their 10th opponent this season with 60 or fewer points. Savannah State shot just 32.8 from the floor.
With Savannah State within two points with 14:07 left in regulation, the Vols went on an 8-0 run to regain control of the game and go ahead 45-35 with 10:47 left in the game. Richardson's jumper returned the margin back to double-figures.
The Vols continued to hold a lead of at least seven points for the remainder of the game.
Savannah State went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to draw within two at 35-33 on a pair of Blackman free throws, six minutes into the second half.
Tennessee led 32-24 at halftime with Stokes tallying seven in the first half.
Savannah State cut the Vols' lead to single-digits at 27-20 with mini 10-1 run keyed by two Pretson Blackman 3-pointers, and eight points in the spurt that ended with 2:48 left in the first half.
The Vols took a lead as large as 17 points, at 26-9 on two Makanjuola free throws with 7:16 left in the second half.
Tennessee opened the game scoring the first 10 points. Savannah State missed its first seven shots from the floor as the Vols dominated. The Tigers' first points came 6:40 into the game on a Rashan Hassan jumper.
The Vols won their first NIT postseason game since 1992, when UT downed UAB, 71-68.