Vols jump Jaguars

Moments after draining three 3-pointers to fuel an 11-2 run that gave Tennessee a 25-14 lead Wednesday night against South Alabama, Chris Lofton went to the bench with his second foul. Taking his place was Eddie DeBro.

Replacing one of the NCAA's premier shooters with a 5-foot-11 walk-on can be disastrous. Not this time, though.

DeBro made a beautiful bounce-pass assist in traffic that gave C.J. Watson a transition layup. Moments later he made a steal and another nifty pass to set up a Major Wingate dunk. DeBro also grabbed a couple of defensive rebounds in a sterling eight-minute relief stint that enabled Tennessee to actually expand the lead to 15 points (42-27) while Lofton was on the bench.

Up 48-33 at the break, the Vols put the game away by outscoring the Jaguars 9-0 to start the second half, building a 57-33 bulge they eventually parlayed into an 87-69 triumph.

DeBro, who saw just 14 minutes of action in UT's first nine games, played only one minute in the second half but tacked on another rebound and made a basket. His final line showed two points, three rebounds, a steal and two assists in nine eventful minutes.

"Eddie DeBro was able to play a significant amount in the first half when we were in foul trouble," coach Bruce Pearl noted, "and we weren't the worse for wear."

DeBro wasn't the only unsung reserve who contributed, though. Jordan Howell was two of two from the field (both 3-pointers) and finished with six points, an assist and a rebound in 10 solid minutes. Howell has made 10 of 16 shots this season, including 7 of 12 from beyond the arc.

"Jordan Howell is not missing shots," Pearl said. "And he's playing with great confidence."

Although the surprising play of DeBro and Howell made for an interesting story line, Tennessee's starters were productive, as well. Wingate sank 8 of 11 from the floor and led the Vols with 17 points.

"Major Wingate stepped up, I thought, in a big way," Pearl said.

Watson added 16 points and Lofton 14. Super sub JaJuan Smith came off the bench to contribute 10.

"Chris's shooting was certainly significant," Pearl said, "and C.J. once again made plays at the end of the game."

Mario Jointer scored 17 and Michael Phillips 16 for the Jaguars, who slip to 9-3.

Overall, Wednesday's effort was one of Tennessee's best. The Vols shot a season-best 56.5 percent from the field, recorded a season high in assists (29) and a season low in turnovers (8).

Tennessee, now 9-1, opens SEC play Sunday at South Carolina. Tip-off is set for 1:30.

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