Tony Passley opened the tide-turning run with a 3-pointer. Chris Lofton, fouled in transition, made a couple of free throws. After forcing a five-second call on the inbounds play, Lofton nailed a 3-pointer. Following a wild inbounds pass that wound up in the courtside seats, Duke Crews hit a 6-footer to cap a 10-0 spurt that lasted just 85 seconds and widened the gap to 48-30.
Tennessee wasn't done, though. Coppin beat the press on its ensuing possession and bagged a 3-pointer. However, a backcourt steal by JaJuan Smith set up a retaliatory 3 by Josh Tabb. The Vols then forced another five-second count on the ensuing inbounds play but couldn't convert.
Over the final three minutes of the half Tennessee's press forced two turnovers and two inbound violations, enabling the Vols to outscore the Eagles 13-3 and take a 51-33 lead to the locker room.
Dane Bradshaw, UT's only senior, recalls offering a few words of encouragement during a timeout just before the big finish.
"We were in a huddle and I said to the guys, ‘We can get this thing up to 20 with the way we make runs.' We've been very successful late in halves and at the end of games making big runs.
"That's our conditioning and our mindset: We're going to kill guys in the end when they're tired."
Sure enough, the Vols delivered the kill shot early in the second half, hitting 13 of their first 16 shots as the lead swelled to 39 points (89-50) with 6:24 to go.
Head coach Bruce Pearl offered a familiar explanation, noting that "Our pace and pressure took a toll."
"I was very proud of the way we bounced back in the second half because the energy wasn't there and the focus wasn't there (in the first half)," Bradshaw said. "Coach chewed us out pretty good at the half, and I tried to tell the guys there was still time to make Coach happy and make practice not too hard tomorrow."
Lofton finished with a team-high 19 points. Duke Crews added 13 points, while fellow freshman Wayne Chism produced his first collegiate double-double – 11 points and 11 rebounds. JaJuan Smith chipped in 11 points and 4 steals, while Ryan Childress came off the bench to contribute 10 points. Dane Bradshaw contributed 8 points, 6 rebounds and a game-high 9 assists.
Tywain McKee scored 21 to pace Coppin State, now 0-3.
Tennessee returns to action Wednesday, facing Butler in the NIT Tip-off semifinals at New York's Madison Square Garden.