The lopsided victory improved Tennessee's record to 10-4 and rekindled memories of its dominating play in earlier wins against No. 7 Villanova (78-68) and No. 3 Pitt (83-76). The Vols registered season highs in points, field goals made (36), 3-pointers made (12), assists (25) and blocked shots (8).
Tennessee shot a hefty 53.7 percent (36 of 67) from the field. Moreover, a Vol squad that ranked dead last among SEC teams at 30.3 percent from 3 coming in hit a sizzling 57.1 percent (12 of 21) from beyond the arc.
"We needed that," head coach Bruce Pearl said after the big win. "I thought that we won that game on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week in practice. I thought we made progress. Two out of those three practices were outstanding. We practiced with contact for three straight days with a game on the fourth. I rarely do that. I just felt like we had that much to work on."
The Big Orange had played lethargically in losing four of its previous six games against opponents who slowed the tempo. But the youthful Tigers, now 11-3, decided to run with Tennessee. That decision proved costly as the re-energized Vols rolled to a 45-20 lead with 4:45 left to intermission.
"I thought the guys were physical. I thought they were aggressive," Pearl said. "It helped us that Memphis, playing on the road for the first time, didn't shoot well early."
Tennessee's focus seemed to fade the last four minutes of the half, however, allowing Memphis to close with a 14-4 run that narrowed the gap to 49-34 at the break.
When the Tigers opened the second half with a 5-0 spurt, Pearl called the timeout that turned the game Tennessee's way for good. Senior point guard Melvin Goins saw to that.
First, he assisted Scotty Hopson for a dunk. Goins then drained back-to-back 3-pointers as the lead swelled to 57-39. Hopson added two more 3s and Josh Bone one as the lead zoomed to 75-43 with 11:25 remaining.
Tobias Harris posted a double-double - 17 points, 13 rebounds - to lead the Vols. Hopson chipped in 16 points. Goins, who was a perfect 4 for 4 from 3-point range, added 15. Reserves Jeronne Maymon (10 points) and Trae Golden (8 assists) also made valuable contributions.
For a Tennessee team that hadn't played a good game since beating Pitt on Dec. 11, Wednesday's showing was huge. Still, Pearl knows better than to get too happy.
"We're not going to be too excited about this," he said. "We're going to keep it in perspective. We understand the intensity of what conference play is going to be like heading into that first (league) game."
Tennessee, of course, will go into that first league game without Pearl. The head man begins an eight-game SEC suspension when the Vols play Arkansas Saturday in Fayetteville.