Memphis sank just 33.9 percent of its field-goal tries (19 of 56) but still out-shot Tennessee, which finished at 32.7 percent (18 of 55). The Tigers made a so-so 33.3 percent (5 of 15) from behind the arc, whereas the Vols made just 20 percent (2 of 10). Memphis probably won the game at the free-throw line, hitting 78.6 percent (11 of 14) to Tennessee's 60.8 percent (14 of 23).
Speaking on his post-game show, Vol head man Bruce Pearl called Memphis "a tremendous defensive club," but also praised his own team for stepping up its defensive intensity.
"We've made some progress with our defense," he said. "Our guys guarded, and I thought they battled."
They certainly battled to make shots, and that cost them dearly. The lone exception was 6-9 post Wayne Chism, who scored Tennessee's last 11 points. With the Vols trailing 53-52 entering the final 20 seconds, he was supposed to get one more shot.
When Memphis blanketed Chism, Tennessee went to Plan B. Preseason All-American Tyler Smith missed an off-balance 10-footer from the lane with around 10 seconds left. Memphis freshman Tyreke Evans won the scramble for the ensuing loose ball and was fouled. He made the front end of a one-and-one with 1.9 seconds left, then Tennessee's Josh Tabb missed a 40-foot desperation heave at the buzzer.
Evans scored 17 points to lead Memphis, now 16-3 and riding a 10-game winning streak. He sat out 13 minutes of the first half due to foul trouble and scored just three points during that span. He produced 14 second-half points, however, including the Tigers' final seven. Even so, Pearl thought the defensive work on him was pretty good.
"What a defensive effort by J.P. Prince!" the Vol coach said. "J.P. Prince was phenomenal defensively. When we put J.P. on Tyreke I don't know that he scored in the halfcourt. J.P. shut him down. I probably should've done that (put Prince on Evans) a possession or two sooner."
Chism led Tennessee with 15 points and 6 rebounds. Tyler Smith added 13 points and 10 rebounds but sank just 5 of 18 shots. Although he chose his words carefully, Pearl suggested that Smith was fouled on some of the misses.
"There's a ton of contact in there," the coach said. "Tyler misses 13 shots in the paint and shoots four free throws. That's Tyler Smith. That's no freshman and that's not a guy that takes it to contact."
Tennessee now stands 12-6 after losing its third home game of the season. The Vols trailed 7-2 early but battled back to take a 19-14 lead. They were up 29-25 with mere seconds left to halftime but allowed Memphis' Antonio Anderson to unload an uncontested 27-footer that swished through at the first-half buzzer, narrowing the gap to 29-28 at the break.
Memphis surged to a 42-34 lead five minutes into the second half but Chism's 11-point spurt got Tennessee in position to win the game with a clutch shot in the final seconds.
On this afternoon, however, the Vols weren't making clutch shots. In fact, they weren't making any kind of shots.