The Vols finally tipped off the 2009-2010 basketball season Friday night, which provided Vol fans with a refreshing opportunity to root for their beloved Vols without hearing the words armed robbery, pellet gun, Toyota Prius, or more recently, Dexter McCluster. The team opened their season looking very similar to last year’s team, but with noticeable improvements, a few fresh faces, and a lot of excitement.

The team started the game poorly, making sloppy passes and turning the ball over, providing the Governors opportunities to keep the game close, which they capitalized on late in the first half. Austin Peay made a run in the closing minutes of the first half, which reduced the Vol’s lead from a 17 point rout to a 6 point contest. The Vols came out with some intensity in the second half, gaining momentum with back to back Tyler Smith baskets and stellar play from Cameron Tatum and Scotty Hopson. In the end, the Governors were worn down by the Tennessee press, allowing the Vols to cruise in the second half to a 29 point victory.

Wayne and Tyler played their typical games against the Governors, both recording double-doubles. Tyler’s performance was representative of his consistent play, as he scored 14 points, grabbed 11 boards, and filled up every category in the stat column. It never ceases to amaze me how Tyler does so much for the team, but does it so quietly. He truly is a jack of all trades.

Scotty and Cameron complimented each other nicely while they shared time on the court, both tallying impressive stats. Scotty proved his impressive preseason play was not a fluke, as he scored 16 points, shooting 4 of 6 from behind the arc. Tatum was good, as well. He added 15 points, hitting three of his six three point attempts; much better play than we saw out of him in the preseason. Given that he continues to perform at that level and the fact that J.P. Prince has excelled in a sixth man role, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tatum cracks the starting lineup soon.

Tennessee’s point guard play has been very average since the departure of C.J. Watson, and this year it appears to be more of the same. I think Maze and Goins can be more than serviceable, but Friday was not an indication of any improvement at the position. It seemed like Maze was trying to force things, which resulted in five turnovers and even fewer assists. Bobby needs to play like a senior for this team to succeed, and he played like a freshman in his season debut. Goins was not disappointing in his first game as a Volunteer, but he has room for improvement. I was especially impressed with his effort on defense. He might not be able to replace Tabb’s defensive intensity, but he will be a suitable substitute. My biggest concern this season is the depth at point guard. I don’t even want to imagine who would see minutes if Maze or Goins goes down.

The freshmen did not look as good against better opposition, but there is no need to hit the panic button yet. I was actually impressed with McBee’s performance against the Governors despite his goose egg in the scoring column. He did exactly what he was supposed to do offensively, get open. He created shots for himself with ease; he just didn’t convert them. He went 0-4 from behind the arc, but that is far from representative of his shooting ability. If he keeps getting open, he will keep shooting, which is exactly what Bruce wants. Kenny Hall did not play well in his Volunteer debut, but showed a lot of potential in the preseason. He just needs a little polishing, and he will be a stud.

 Overall, the team’s performance was solid, but far from perfect. The press was fairly effective, our key players played well, and we showed lots of promise. One of the few negatives was attendance, which was less than stellar, especially for the first game of the season. Hopefully there will be a better turnout when the Vols take on UNC-Asheville tomorrow.