UT head coach Bruce Pearl offered another explanation on his post-game show. He thought his team's fatigue may have been brought on by an overload of basketball, rather than an overload of turkey.
"We're not going to blow 'em out every night against teams we're physically superior to," he said. "This was our fourth game in seven days, and I practiced 'em harder yesterday than I have all year long."
Regardless, Tennessee led just 61-58 with 9:15 to go, then went on a 21-5 run that widened the gap to 82-63 with 4:00 left and finally put the game away. Tyler Smith scored 10 points during the game-clinching spurt.
College of Charleston kept the game closer than expected by draining 11 of its first 20 shots from 3-point range. The Cougars missed their last five trey attempts, enabling Tennessee to pull away down the stretch.
"We knew they could shoot the ball better from 3 than 2," Pearl said. They were 11 for 25 from 3, and they're dangerous because they can shoot the ball."
Tennessee's Scotty Hopson showed he can shoot the ball by hitting 6 of 9 shots (3 of 3 from 3) en route to 17 first-half points. He attempted just one field goal and two free throws in the final 20 minutes, making all three to finish with 21 points.
Smith chipped in 18 points. Wayne Chism, limited to 13 minutes by foul trouble, added 11 points. His backup, Brian Williams, filled in admirably, recording 11 points and 7 rebounds in 22 relief minutes. Cameron Tatum, starting in place of J.P. Prince, added 6 points.
"I wanted to get J.P. to relax a little bit," Pearl said of the lineup change. "He'd been pressing and hadn't been as productive.... Cameron had just been playing so very, very well."
Tennessee shot well from the floor (56.4 percent) and from behind the arc (45.5 percent) but made just 19 of 29 foul shots (65.5 percent). The Vols dominated the backboards 44-24 and outscored the Cougars 42-14 on points in the paint but finished with more turnovers (16) than assists (15).
"It was tough, and it showed," Pearl said. "We just didn't have the energy but we ground it out, outrebounded them by 20, shot a good percentage and got the victory."