Jarnell Stokes scored 13 points and top-seeded Tennessee beat Savannah State 65-51 in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.
Trae Golden had 11 points, and Yemi Makanjuola and Josh Richardson both added 10 for the Volunteers (19-14), who will host fourth-seeded Middle Tennessee or fifth-seeded Marshall in Knoxville in the second round.
Tennessee led by as many as 17 in the first half, but Savannah State took advantage of sloppy play by the Vols early in the second half to pull within 37-35 with 13:12 to play.
Makanjuola blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound and dished the ball to Golden, who hit a layup at the other end, sparking an 8-0 run. The Vols hit 12 of 18 free throws in the second half to maintain control.
Rashad Hasaan scored 20 points to lead the eighth-seeded Tigers (21-12).