Tennessee led by as many as 27 points midway through the second half, but the Owls battled back down the stretch. But the Volunteers went 13 of 19 from the free-throw line in the second half to put the game away.
The Owls could not slow down the Volunteers, who seemed to hit nearly every shot they took.
Tennessee shot 60.5 percent from the field, including 70.8 percent in the first half, while holding Kennesaw State 46.2 percent for the contest.
Kenny Hall scored 13 and Jarnell Stokes added 10 for the Vols. It was Tennessee’s 14th consecutive season-opening victory.
Delbert Love and Aaron Anderson led Kennesaw State with 16 points each.
Tennessee ended the first half on an 8-2 run to take a 42-30 lead, its largest of the half.
The run seemed to knock the wind out of the Owls.
Kennesaw State stumbled out of the gate to start the second half. The Owls did not make a basket the first six minutes until a Love jumper ended the drought. But Tennessee had extended its lead to 54-33 with 13:45 remaining in the game.
Kennesaw State’s Markeith Cummings who entered the game 81 points shy of becoming the Owls’ all-time leading scorer, finished with six points on 2-of-8 shooting. He was held scoreless until a lay-in at the 10:59 mark of the second half.
But the Owls didn’t quit.
An Anderson layup with 7:54 left in the game culminated a 13-2 Owls run that cut the Vols lead to 63-47.
Then Tennessee went on a drought of its own and didn’t have a field goal the final 3:09 of the game — and had just two baskets over the game’s final 11 minutes.
Still, the Vols managed hold onto a double-figure lead the entire second half until a Nigel Brown lay-in with nine seconds left ended the scoring.
Tennessee was without Jeronne Maymon, who is out indefinitely after suffering a setback recovering from offseason knee injury. Maymon was the Vols’ leading scorer and rebounder last season.