Hot Howell lifts Vols

Coming off one of his worst performances as a Vol on Tuesday night, Tennessee's Jordan Howell gave one of his best performances Friday night.

The 6-2 senior point guard scored a career-high 17 points as the 11th-ranked Vols moved to 7-1 by trouncing Louisiana-Lafayette 98-70 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

After sinking just 2 of 11 shots Tuesday against North Carolina A&T, Jordan Howell did some extra shooting after practice. The work paid dividends. He hit 6 of 10 attempts against the Ragin' Cajuns.

"I came back twice – Wednesday night and last night – to get extra shots," he said on the post-game show. "It was kind of a bad feeling for most of us guards after the last game. We wanted to show a little better tonight."

Mission accomplished. After hitting just 14 of 50 shots (28 percent) from 3-point range vs. North Carolina A&T, Tennessee drained 12 of 25 (48 percent) against Louisiana. Howell was 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.

"Jordan was hunting his shot," head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "You could tell he had more confidence.... He's a dangerous weapon out there offensively."

Howell notched 11 of his points in the first half, helping Tennessee race to a 46-27 lead. He scored on a drive early, then hit a 3-pointer that put the Vols on top 25-9 with 11:20 left in the half. Louisiana closed to 38-27 but Howell drained another 3 to stop the rally. Tyler Smith scored off a Chris Lofton steal and assist, then Howell drained another 3 at the first-half buzzer.

Yet another 3 by Howell contributed to a 10-0 spurt early in the second half that widened the gap to 26 (56-30) with 17:41 to go. The Ragin' Cajuns clawed back to within 18 at 69-51 but Howell and Tyler Smith hit back-to-back 3s to restore order.

Smith finished with 22 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in a brilliant all-around performance. JaJuan Smith chipped in 15 points (all in the second half). Ramar Smith scored 14. Duke Crews, getting his first start of the year, chipped in 10 points and 9 rebounds.

"I thought Duke did a really good job," Pearl said. "Wayne (Chism) could really be good for us coming off the bench. He could be a good spark plug for us. I want to see Wayne play more physically, play with more emotion and more sense of urgency."

All-American Chris Lofton scored just 7 points, hitting 2 of 5 field-goal attempts and not taking a shot in the second half.

"I don't think Chris is working hard enough for his shot," Pearl said.

Chris Gradnigo (15), David Dees (14) and Elijah Millsap (12) did the scoring for ULL, which has lost four straight after winning its opener.

Tennessee shot 53 percent from the floor and 48 percent (12 of 25) from 3-point range. The Vols won the backboards 41-30, limited the visitors to 42-percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers. Still, there are some rough edges that need to be smoothed a bit.

"I definitely don't have a handle on this team yet," Pearl said. "I think part of it is just inconsistency.... I don't think we're very good yet. I think we will be, but we're not there."

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