KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Jordan McRae scored 25 points and Tennessee shot 55.4 percent from the floor Friday to defeat Tennessee State 88-67 for its third consecutive victory.
McRae has led the Volunteers (3-1) in scoring in each of their first four games.Jarnell Stokes added 16 points and eight rebounds for Tennessee, which didn't commit a single turnover in the first 16 1/2 minutes of the game.Patrick Miller scored 20 points, M.J. Rhett had 14 and Jay Harris added 12 for Tennessee State (0-6).Tennessee State, which went 18-15 last season, is 0-6 for the first time since 1999-2000.Tennessee State watched its record against Southeastern Conference opponents fall to 1-21. Tennessee State's only victory over an SEC foe was a 64-63 triumph over South Carolina on Nov. 20, 2011.Tennessee got a boost off the bench from freshman Darius Thompson, who had five steals, seven assists and six points in 24 minutes. Thompson had four steals before halftime that accounted for nearly all of Tennessee State's five first-half turnovers.The Vols' ability to avoid mistakes on offense helped spark them to a 16-point lead before a late Tennessee State surge cut the deficit to 38-30 by halftime.Thompson was at his best during a 21-7 run midway through the first half.The 6-foot-5 guard made steals on consecutive Tennessee State possessions in a sequence that started with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the first half. Thompson converted the first steal into a dunk and passed to McRae for another dunk after the second steal.About three minutes later, Thompson turned a backcourt steal into a layup and assisted on an Armani Moore basket that capped the 21-7 spurt and gave Tennessee a 35-19 advantage.Tennessee State answered with an 11-3 run to close the first half. The Tigers stayed relatively close by shooting 45.8 percent (11 of 24) in the first half despite missing six of their seven 3-point attempts during that stretch.The Tigers continued hanging around early in the second half and cut Tennessee's lead to 42-36 on Miller's 3-pointer with 17:30 remaining.That's when McRae took over.McRae answered Miller's 3-pointer with one of his own to start a 12-2 run that got the lead back up to 16. McRae scored eight of Tennessee's first 10 points during that spurt with his 3-point basket, a conventional three-point play and a pair of free throws.Tennessee's lead wouldn't drop below 13 points the rest of the night as Tennessee State continued its season-long struggles from 3-point range. The Tigers were 3 of 15 from beyond the arc Friday and have made just 20.2 percent (20 of 99) of their 3-point attempts this season.