Reserve Brandon Huntley-Hatfield had eight of his 12 points in a momentum-changing run that put No. 15 Tennessee ahead for good as it held off the upset bid of Tennessee Tech and went on to an 80-69 victory Friday in Knoxville, Tenn.
Olivier Nkamhoua scored 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting, Kennedy Chandler had 15 and John Fulkerson had 14 for the Volunteers (4-1). Santiago Vescovi added 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Jr. Clay led Tennessee Tech (2-4) with 19 points.
Huntley-Hatfield, who entered the game averaging 4.5 points, had the last two baskets in a 16-4 run that put the Vols ahead 58-49 with 9:17 left in the game.
The short-handed Vols were without Josiah-Jordan James, an ace defender, who missed a second straight game for because of a finger injury and flu-like symptoms. Teammate Justin Powell also sat out with flu-like symptoms.
The Vols eventually stretched their lead to 14 points in the final minutes but never turned it into a blowout as they had in the previous two meetings, a 103-49 victory last season and a 96-53 win in December 2018.
The first half was typified by the final few possessions. After Tennessee finally established a 34-28 lead on back-to-back baskets by Fulkerson in the paint, both on assists by Vescovi, the Golden Eagles concluded the half with a 7-0 run for a 35-34 advantage at intermission.
Worst of all, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes called a timeout with 17 seconds left to set up a play for his team's final possession of the half, figuring the Vols could do no worse than go into the locker room with a 34-32 lead. But Chandler turned the ball over and Clay cashed in with a three-pointer with one second left to send the Golden Eagles in with a halftime lead.
Tennessee's fortunes didn't improve immediately after halftime, either. Clay's fast-break layup after a miss by Fulkerson put the Golden Eagles ahead, 45-42, 3:03 into the second half, marking their biggest lead of the game before the Vols finally restored order.
--Field Level Media