"When you come here to face a team like this, you've got to have your A-game," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game radio show. "We didn't bring it."
The No. 23-ranked Vols didn't bring much of anything in the first 20 minutes. OSU built a 42-26 halftime lead by forcing 11 turnovers and limiting Tennessee's top two scorers – guards Chris Lofton (1 of 3 from the floor) and C.J. Watson (0 of 0) – to three shots and just two points between them.
Watson, slowed by illness all week, came out smoking to start the second half, however. He scored on a 3-pointer, a steal and drive, then another 3 to fuel a 10-3 spurt that narrowed the gap to 45-36.
Back-to-back 3s by Lofton moments later pulled the Vols within three (51-48) and a JaJuan Smith trey closed the deficit to one (67-66) with exactly 9:00 remaining. Spent by the furious rally, the Vols' lack of depth killed them at this point. They were outscored 22-7 the rest of the way.
Lofton scored 19 second-half points and led UT with 21. Watson scored all 12 of his points in the second half. Andre Patterson came off the bench to chip in 10.
Tennessee committed 16 turnovers and shot just 42 percent from the floor. Although the Vols made a spirited second-half run, it wasn't enough to overcome 70-percent second-half shooting (17 of 24) by the Cowboys.
"You can't let a team shoot the percentage Oklahoma State shot," Pearl said. "Our guys aren't physical getting through screens. We just got pushed around."
Tennessee plays its next three games at home – Alabama A&M (Tuesday at 7:30), Lipscomb (Thursday at 7) and South Alabama (Jan. 4 at 7) – before opening Southeastern Conference play Jan. 8 at South Carolina.