ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- Scott Hopson is making himself right at home outside the 3-point arc. Tennessee (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) is making itself at home in the Virgin Islands.
Hopson hit four 3-pointers and scored 25 points Friday, and the Volunteers rolled to a 105-66 rout of East Carolina in the opening round of the Paradise Jam at the University of Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center."I believe every shot is going in, and that confidence helps me," said Hopson, who has made 14 of 18 attempts from beyond the arc this season. "I believe when I start hitting the shots it really helps in getting the team going."Pirates coach Mack McCarthy could only shake his head."At 6-foot-7, it's hard to contest him," McCarthy said. "What is he, 14 of 18 this season? There are guys that aren't shooting that from the free throw line."Hopson played only 23 minutes, the most of any Vols player, as coach Bruce Pearl went to his deep bench when the game got out of hand.Tennessee's Bobby Maze scored 15 points, Cameron Tatum had 14, Tyler Smith 13 and Melvin Goins added 10 points and five assists. Seven different Vols hit 3-pointers, with the team collectively making 13 of 24.Tennessee (3-0) plays DePaul (2-0) in second round Sunday. The Blue Demons upset NCAA tournament participant Norhtern Iowa 60-52 earlier in the day.Tennessee's defense created many of the scoring opportunities, smothing the Pirates with its self-styled "controlled chaos" press. Tennessee forced 35 turnovers, most in Pearl's five years as the Vols' head coach."Obviously when the tempo got up it was in our favor," Pearl said. "We played with passion and intensity."East Carolina (1-3) was competitive early, using an 8-0 run to take a 17-13 lead on Brock Young's steal and layup at the 12:01 mark of the first half.That's when Hopson heated up. He hit a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout, then made a putback as the Vols answered with a 9-0 run of their own to reclaim the lead for good.East Carolina, led by Young's 15 points and four assists, managed just one field goal over the final 12:01 of the first half and trailed 43-27 at intermission."They certainly wore us down," McCarthy said. "They don't lose much when they go to the bench. But 35 turnovers? I don't think I've ever seen that."