Vols overcome Mocs, 76-70

Jordan Howell didn't match the career-high 17 points he scored against Louisiana-Lafayette last Friday but the points he made were huge Tuesday night at Chattanooga's McKenzie Center.

With No. 10 Tennessee leading UT-Chattanooga by just one point with 12 minutes left, Howell drained back-to-back 3-pointers in a 14-3 explosion that turned a 47-46 lead into a 61-49 cushion. The Vols held on from there, winning 76-70.

The game marked Tennessee's first visit to the so-called "Round House" since helping inaugurate the building 25 years ago. A record crowd showed up to support the Moccasins, who had the Vols on the ropes for much of the game.

"I coached my guts out tonight," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "This was the game of the century for them (Moccasins)."

Howell, a 6-3 senior starting his sixth consecutive game at the point, finished with 12 points, 4 assists and just 1 turnover as Tennessee moved to 8-1. Chris Lofton led the Vols with 16 points, despite sinking just 4 of 13 shots from the floor. JaJuan Smith added 13 points. Tyler Smith and Ramar Smith chipped in 10 each.

Pearl noted that his five-guard rotation of Lofton, Howell, JaJuan Smith, Ramar Smith and Josh Tabb kept them fresh and enabled them to make some key plays down the stretch.

Stephen McDowell led UTC (4-4) with 14 points. Marcus Watts added 13 and Nicchaeus Doaks 11. The Moccasins outshot Tennessee 46-36 percent from the field and won the backboards 46-31 but committed a whopping 34 turnovers against the Vols' pesky fullcourt press.

"The press bothered 'em," Pearl said. "I thought we did a good job in their halfcourt man-to-man sets. Where they're good is in transition."

With a rowdy crowd cheering them on, the Moccasins spurted to a 4-0 lead. Lofton hit a pair of 3s in a 16-4 run that put the visiting Vols on top 16-8 but UT-C trailed by just a point (34-33) at the break.

UT-C scored the first four points of the second half to grab a 37-34 lead and appeared on the verge of springing a huge upset until Tennessee made its big surge midway through the second half.

Ramar Smith opened the spurt with a couple of free throws, padding the lead to 49-46. Howell then drained his back-to-back 3s, widening the gap to 55-48. Lofton hit a 3, then Howell assisted Tyler Smith for a dunk that pushed the lead to 60-49. Howell then closed the run with a free throw that made it 61-49 with around 7:00 remaining.

Tennessee's lead peaked at 13 points (66-53) on a Ramar Smith layup.

The Vols will concentrate on final exams the next 11 days, then face Western Kentucky Dec. 15 in Nashville.


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