Temple tops Tennessee

A white Christmas may be fun but a white-hot Christmas proved to be no holiday for the Tennessee Vols Saturday in Philadelphia.

Dionte Christmas hit 12 of 22 shots – 7 of 14 from 3-point range – and scored 30 of his 35 points in the second half as the Temple Owls shocked the eighth-ranked Vols 88-72.

The Big Orange performance was among the worst of the Bruce Pearl era at Tennessee. The Vols made just 23 of 63 field-goal tries (36.5 percent), including 6 of 26 from beyond the arc (23.1 percent). Tennessee lost the backboards 37-33 and forced just 11 turnovers – 12 fewer than it caused in beating Temple 80-63 a year ago.

Meanwhile, the Vol defense was a no-show. Temple hit 31 of 56 shots (55.3 percent) and 8 of 20 from beyond the arc (40 percent).

"Believe it or not, we made progress this week in practice," head coach Bruce Pearl said on the post-game show. " But in seven out of the last eight halves of basketball we've played, teams have shot better than 50 percent."

Tennessee had absolutely no answer for Christmas, a 6-5 senior guard who alternately drove through the Vols and shot over them.

"He was as good as advertised, if not better," Pearl said. "He did a great job, making seven of their eight 3s. He was hard to guard. We didn't have anybody who could stay with him.... We probably should've given him a hard foul at some point to see if we could get him off his rhythm."

Sergio Olmos, a 7-footer, chipped in 19 and Ryan Brooks 16 for Temple, which improves to 5-3.

Tyler Smith paced Tennessee (6-2) with 17 points. He missed eight of his first nine shots but hit five of his last seven to finish six of 16. Bobby Maze chipped in 15 points and Wayne Chism 10.

Junior wing J.P. Prince missed the game with an ankle injury suffered in Friday's shoot-around. His replacement, Josh Tabb, did not score.

"J.P. is our second-best player, with Tyler," Pearl said. "J.P. is a key, key guy. He's got a high IQ, basketball-wise, and he's one of our leaders in scoring, assists and defensively. J.P. is a great player."

Freshman wing Scotty Hopson opened the game on the bench as punishment for being five minutes late to a team meeting. His replacement, redshirt freshman Cameron Tatum, went 1 of 8 from the field.

Tennessee scored a season-low 25 points in the first half and went to the break down 34-25. Temple expanded the lead to 14 (45-31) five minutes into the second half.

The Vols pulled within four at 52-48 with 11:17 to play but Christmas scored 13 points in a 15-4 spurt that built the lead to 67-52. Nine of the points came on back-to-back-to-back 3s.

Temple's biggest lead was 82-59 with 4:27 left.

Tennessee will try to get back on track Tuesday night against Marquette. That game tip offs at 8:30 Central at the Sommet Center in Nashville as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational.


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