KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s young roster is starting to come of age.
Grant Williams scored 17 points Saturday as Tennessee defeated Kansas State 70-58 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge for the Volunteers’ third consecutive victory.
Rather than letting down in their first game after an 82-80 stunner over No. 4 Kentucky, the Vols built on their momentum. That represents a major achievement for a team that had struggled to establish consistency much of the season.
“Throughout the season, we would have a good game and then we’d take a step back,” said Williams, one of Tennessee’s three freshman starters. “We just preached to each other we’ve got to play hard and play our game. We did a good job of that.”
Tennessee also showed it has different formulas for success.
Robert Hubbs III carried Tennessee in the Kentucky game by collecting 25 points, but he wasn’t quite as productive against Kansas State. Hubbs was scoreless in the game’s first 16 minutes and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Vols instead relied on their ability to dominate the boards Saturday as they led by as many as 19 and never trailed all day.
Tennessee outrebounded Kansas State 43-29 and outscored the Wildcats 23-6 in second-chance points.
“We didn’t compete as hard as we needed to,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “They competed and played hard, and we didn’t match it.”
Jordan Bowden had 13 points for Tennessee. Kansas State’s Barry Brown scored 17 points, including 15 in the second half. Wesley Iwundu had 14 and Kamau Stokes added 11 for the Wildcats (15-6), who lost their second straight.
Tennessee built a 39-22 halftime lead by capitalizing on Kansas State’s cold shooting. Kansas State shot just 8 of 22 and missed all six of its 3-point attempts in the first half, which ended with Tennessee on a 9-0 run
The Wildcats made five of their first six 3-point attempts in the second half, but they never got the deficit below nine.
“What we’ve done really the last two games for certain and really (the last) three is when teams have made a push back at us, we’ve been able to handle it,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.
Kansas State hosts TCU on Wednesday.