The Lobos led 64-62 with 3:30 remaining before Tennessee ignited the decisive offensive explosion that featured a three-pointer and a slam dunk by Slay as well as a dunk by Brandon Crump. Slay hit 9-of-15 field goal attempts in the contest, highlighted by a 5-of-7 shooting performance from three-point range. He also knocked down 15-of-19 free-throw attempts while drawing 20 fouls from Lobo defenders to out duel New Mexico's Ruben Douglas who finished with 29 points.
Take away Slay's contributions and Tennessee shot just 13-of-36 from the field, 2-of-11 from beyond arc and 5-of-10 from the foul line. As it was, the Vols connected on 43 percent (22-of-51) from the field, shot 7-of-18 of their 3-pointers and made 20-of-29 free throws. Slay's offensive output was the largest by a Tennessee player since Dyron Nix scored 38 in 1988.
Derek Stribling was the only other Vol to score double figures with 11 points while Crump finished with nine and C.J. Watson had eight points, six rebounds and eight assists. Jamaal Williams scored 20 points for New Mexico.
The Vols out rebounded the Lobos 32-26 and had only 12 turnovers compared to 18 assists. New Mexico shot 45 percent from the field for the game (18-of-40), after hitting 53 percent in the first half, and hit 23-of-29 from the foul line.
Although it wasn't the type of dominating performance Tennessee would have preferred heading into the SEC schedule, it was the Vols' third consecutive win and demonstrated their ability to prevail in a close contest.
Tennessee will need a better overall effort with Kentucky coming to town on Wednesday to open conference competition for both teams.
"We feel like we've got some momentum now," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson during an interview broadcast by the Vol Network. "I shouldn't have to say anything to these guys to get them ready for Kentucky.
"They've got the big players inside and when (Keith) Bogans is going they're tough. We feel we're tough to beat at home and we expect to see a lot of orange here on Wednesday night."