Vols Rally Past Ragin' Cajuns

Tennessee showed it could build a big lead, blow a big lead and bounce back in a big way to beat a much bigger Louisiana-Lafayette basketball team, 83-76, Tuesday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Giving away size and strength at virtually every position, the Vols (2-0) relied on their quickness and pressure defense to force 15 first half turnovers, create transition offense and race to a 43-24 first half lead. They built that cushion to 21 points at 56-35, before the Ragin' Cajuns rallied behind a 31-9 run to take a 66-65 lead on Chris Cameron's 3-point goal with 4:55 to go in the game.

UT head coach Bruce Pearl had seen enough, and called an immediate time out, during which he designed a play for senior point guard C.J. Watson. The Vols executed the plan perfectly, as Watson knocked down a three while being fouled. He added the free throw to put UT back in front 69-66. The Ragin' Cajuns responded with a trey to knot the score at 69-69, but Stanley Asumnu answered with a slam dunk basket and Watson hit another triple to give UT the lead for good.

Andre Patterson led the Vols in scoring with a career high 21 points, hitting 6-of-11 from the field, 8-of-12 free throws and knocked down a three. He also had six rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots in an excellent overall game.

"I always have a lot of big guys on me," he said after the game in an interview broadcast on the Vol Network. "I try to take advantage of them. I've been trying to hit the weights harder and get stronger for the guy's in the conference."

Watson scored 17 points and had five assists, while Chris Lofton had 12 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds. Stanley Asumnu had 11, as UT finished with five players in double figures.

Wingate wasn't expected to play against Louisiana-Lafayette (0-2) after suffering a sprained foot in Sunday's practice, but he spent 48 hours in the training room getting around the clock treatment to accelerate his recovery. He gave Tennessee 28 minutes in which he scored 12 points, grabbed three boards and blocked three shots.

"Andre and Major stepped it up knowing they had to if we were going to win," Pearl said. "Major asked me if we could win if he didn't play and I told him I didn't think so. I wasn't going to let him play if he couldn't run the floor."

Louisiana-Lafayette was led by guard Dwayne Mitchell who scored 19 points and pulled down 20 rebounds. However he was victimized for 12 turnovers under the Vols relentless first half pressure.

The Vols, who hit 46 percent from the field (25 of 54) entertain Eastern Kentucky on Friday night.

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