LSU dunks Vols, 88-74

Bruce Pearl knew there would be nights like this.

Because Tennessee is small across the frontline, Pearl knew his Vols could be exploited by teams with superior size and strength. That's exactly what happened Saturday night at Baton Rouge.

LSU's towering Tigers won the backboards 43-25 and blocked 13 shots. Shooting mostly dunks, layups and short jumpers, the Tigers hit 64 percent from the floor, including a blistering 76 percent (19 of 25) in the second half. The result was an 88-74 triumph.

Glen Davis (6-9, 310) produced 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Tyrus Thomas (6-9, 215) added 17 points, 9 rebounds and 9 blocked shots. Tasmin Mitchell (6-7, 230) chipped in 13 points and 10 rebounds, giving LSU's frontline a combined 54 points and 29 rebounds. Guard Darrell Mitchell chipped in 11 points for the Tigers, now 10-5 overall and 2-0 in SEC play. C.J. Watson scored 18 to pace Tennessee, now 11-2 overall and 2-1 in league play. Stanley Asumnu and Major Wingate chipped in 13 each, while Andre Patterson added 10 off the bench.

Chris Lofton scored just 2 points. He was 1 of 7 from the field, including 0 of 4 from 3-point range. He was guarded most of the night by 6-5 LSU freshman Garrett Temple, whose height and quickness clearly bothered Lofton.

LSU led for most of the first 20 minutes but took a mere three-point lead to intermission, thanks to 17 first-half turnovers. With Darrell Mitchell (3) and Davis (2) in foul trouble, the Vols appeared to be in great shape.

The Tigers scored the first nine points of the second half, however, turning a 30-27 lead into a 39-27 bulge.

"I'm really upset with my team about that," Pearl said on his post-game show. "At halftime, I liked their position. I liked where we were at and I liked the tempo. But we didn't come out and execute at the start of the second half.

"We had several looks but we weren't sharp. I think that was the difference in the game right there. We're right there (in position to win), but then we give those guys confidence, so I was very disappointed in the second half."

Tennessee rallied, though, and back-to-back baskets by Asumnu narrowed the gap to two (46-44) with 12:08 to go. LSU answered with two inside buckets and a three-point play, however, and the seven-point spurt gave the Tigers a nine-point cushion that was never seriously threatened.

Tennessee shot just 40 percent from the floor, including an icy 27 percent in the first half. The Vols were just 6 of 22 from beyond the 3-point arc. Basically, they didn't get a whole lot of good shots but the few they did get usually rimmed out or were rejected.

"How many shots did we miss really close to the basket and how many shots did they block?" Pearl wondered aloud. "That was the challenge."

Of course, SEC road games are always a challenge. For instance, LSU shot 32 free throws (hitting 25), while Tennessee shot just 14 (hitting 8).

On a positive note, UT shot 52 percent in the second half (20 of 38) and forced 25 turnovers while committing just 11.

The road ahead doesn't get any easier for the Vols. They visit No. 5 Memphis Wednesday night, then host No. 2 Florida next Saturday.

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