- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - After a string of uninspiring performances by starting forward Grant Williams, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes sat the freshman down for a frank discussion.

“We sat there, and I don’t think he would call it a pleasant conversation,” Barnes said. “I basically said to him, he’s really disappointed me. (He is) a guy we thought would really come in here and show us an impact.”

Williams finally did just that by more than doubling his previous best with 30 points to help Tennessee overcome a first-half deficit against hot-shooting Lipscomb to win 92-77 on Thursday night.

He helped the Vols counter the Bisons’ outside shooting by muscling his way into the inside to hit tough layups and get to the free-throw line, where he hit 10 of 13. It was the first 30-point performance by a Tennessee freshman since Chris Lofton - who was in the stands for Thursday’s game - did it against Arkansas in 2005.

And Williams was grateful for the harsh words from Barnes, who was critical of his entire team after the Vols squandered double-digit leads in back-to-back games against North Carolina and Tennessee Tech this week.

“If you have guys just telling you that you’re a good player, you’re doing this well, you’re doing this right, you’re not going to really succeed because you’re not going to work on the parts of the game that aren’t good,” Williams said. “Him being blunt really helps all of us, I would say.”

Tennessee (6-4) and Lipscomb (4-9) were tied at 71 with 12:28 to play, when two inside shots by Robert Hubbs III and a pair of 3-pointers from Detrick Mostella and Lew Evans sparked a 19-0 run for Tennessee.

Lipscomb, which struggled all night defensively and pulled in only 29 rebounds compared to Tennessee’s 41, went 7:24 without a basket and never recovered.

“We talked about it at halftime,” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said. “We said if we’re not better defensively we’ll lose by double figures, and we got that (prediction) right.”

The Vols followed up a sluggish second half in a narrow win on Tuesday against Tennessee Tech by shooting consistently well against Lipscomb. They sank 54.5 percent of their shots and went 28 of 39 from the free-throw line.

Still, it was the Bisons who led 58-49 at halftime after matching the Vols’ 2-pointers and free throws with a flurry of shots from behind the arc. Lipscomb has been hot from deep all season and entered the game ranked seventh in the nation with 112 3-pointers made.

The Bisons hit 11 of 18 from 3-point range and 62.5 percent overall in the first half. But after the break, they cooled to 25.8 percent shooting, hit only one trey on 10 attempts and found several players in foul trouble.

Hubbs finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Mostella added 11 points.

Garrison Mathews led Lipscomb with 28 points. Josh Williams added 16, and Nathan Moran chipped in 10.

“The difference from the first to second half was we weren’t the same offensive team,” Alexander said. “We were the same defensive team, unfortunately. Shots stopped falling, and we were never able to put anything together at either end.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Lipscomb: After scoring a season-high 15 triples against Morehead State on Saturday, the Bisons seemed poised to exceed that against Tennessee before their 3-point shooting faded in the second half.

Tennessee: The Vols were criticized by coach Barnes after blowing a 22-point lead and nearly losing to Tennessee Tech on Tuesday. They responded by a steady effort against Lipscomb, despite the Bisons’ hot shooting in the first half.

QUOTABLE

“A guy like Grant can score,” Hubbs said. “He’s a big body. He just gets the work done. I’m very proud of him. We need somebody to score like that night in and night out. We need a big body down there that can score.”

KEY STATS

Tennessee went 28 of 39 from the free-throw line while Lipscomb only hit 9 of 17. The Vols outrebounded the Bisons 41-21 and outscored them 48-28 in the paint.

NEXT UP

Lipscomb: At Tennessee Tech on Saturday.

Tennessee: Hosts No. 8 Gonzaga in Nashville on Sunday.

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