"It's a big win for all of us in Tennessee," head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "Most of all for those kids in the locker room who believed."
The Vols won by building an early lead, then holding off a couple of Texas comebacks. The Vols sealed the upset win by being near -perfect from the foul line down the stretch.
"We made shots and got the lead," Pearl noted. "We've got a system that's very hard to come from behind on…. One of the keys was being poised enough to go 16 of 18 from the foul line in the second half."
Tennessee forced the Longhorns into 10 first-half turnovers en route to a 20-point halftime lead. That was huge.
"They only got 19 shots in the first half," Pearl noted. "When they don't shoot it, they can't rebound it. It was a physical mismatch on the boards."
Tennessee's only chance to win was to play an outstanding all-around game. The undersized, overachieving Vols did just that. They finished 50 percent from the field (29 of 58), 50 percent from 3-point range (12 of 24) and 89 percent from the foul line (25 of 28). They committed just 10 turnovers, while recording 11 steals.
"It's the kind of team you can root for," Pearl said. "It's a bunch of kids who are busting their butts, playing hard, stepping up and making plays."
Once Tennessee got its big halftime lead, the key was avoiding the kind of prolonged lapse that would enable Texas to seize the momentum and fire up the crowd. The Vols never had such a lapse and the Longhorns never got within 11 points in the second half.
"Let's face it: Tennessee wanted this game more than Texas did," Peal said. "They didn't have Tennessee circled on the schedule, like we had Texas circled on the schedule. We had that going for us, but we did take advantage."
The Longhorns, coming off a 31-point loss to Duke, clearly came out a little flat. Conversely, Tennessee was on fire. Two 3-point bombs by JaJuan Smith capped an opening salvo that produced a 23-5 lead. Seven minutes into the game the Big Orange was 9 of 12 from the field and had forced seven turnovers.
A pair of 3s by Chris Lofton widened the gap to 29-10 midway through the half and Tennessee eventually built the lead to 22 (48-26). It was 48-28 at the break. The halftime stats showed Tennessee 16 of 32 from the field, 7 of 14 from 3-point range and 9 of 10 from the foul line. Moreover, the Vols had committed just one turnover while forcing 10.
The second half was a bit more suspenseful, with Texas making two significant runs. The first began shortly after two C.J. Watson buckets gave Tennessee a 24-point lead (52-28) with 19:11 to play. LaMarcus Aldridge scored twice inside to spark an 8-0 run that whittled the lead to 16 (52-36).
The Vols built their biggest lead at 25 points (67-42) with 11:50 to go and led by 24 (77-53) with seven minutes to play. That's when the Longhorns made their final rally, outscoring Tennessee 15-2 to pull within 79-68 with 2:46 to play.
That's when Patterson and Stanley Asumnu sandwiched dunks around a pair of Watson free throws, then Patterson added two more free throws in an 8-0 run that built the lead to 19 (87-68) with 1:40 left and sealed the deal.
Lofton finished with 21 points to lead the Vols, now 6-0. Watson added 17, Patterson and Smith 12 each.