Vols flatten 49ers, 88-71

Given the circumstances, it was ironic that the key to Tennessee's Wednesday night victory was a shooter.

With four players suspended pending resolution of gun charges, the 16th-ranked but short-handed Vols led Charlotte just 61-54 with 11 minutes to play at Thompson-Boling Arena. That's when freshman Skylar McBee came to the rescue.

McBee was 0 for 3 to that point with two air balls, but his aim was true in the clutch. He drained back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite a 10-1 spurt that widened the gap to 71-55 and enabled the Big Orange to pull away for an 88-71 victory.

"Those were huge shots," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "But that's why he's here, so I'm not going to go over the top and get all fuzzy about it. He's supposed to make those shots. He's supposed to take those shots.

"I was really pleased that he took them and I was really pleased that he made them. But that's my expectation for him. He's a shooter."

McBee wasn't the Vols' only shooter Wednesday night. Scotty Hopson hit 7 of 10 shots, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, and scored 17 points. Renaldo Woolridge, making his first start of the season, hit 4 of 8 shots (2 of 5 from 3) and scored 10.

The star of the show, though, was Wayne Chism. The 6-9 senior scored 16 points in the game's first 16 minutes. The 49ers blanketed him thereafter but he still finished with game highs in points (18), assists (6), steals (5) and blocked shots (3) in 30 dazzling minutes. He was 5 of 7 from the field, 7 of 8 from the line and also contributed 5 rebounds.

"Oh, man! Wayne was a beast," Vol freshman Kenny Hall said. "I was one of the biggest cheerleaders on the bench, rooting for Wayne. Seeing Wayne go off was more energy for me. I was like, 'I want to get out there and do what he's doing."

He came reasonably close. Hall hit 5 of 6 shots from the floor en route to 12 points, 5 rebounds (all off the offensive glass), a block, an assist and a steal in 20 impressive relief minutes.

Counting point guard Bobby Maze (13) and small forward J.P. Prince (10), all six scholarship players scored in double figures for the Vols, now 11-2.

Dijuan Harris scored 16 points to pace Charlotte, now 10-4. The Vols limited 6-6, 245-pound Shamari Spears to 1-of-8 shooting and 8 points, 9 below the 17.0 average he brought into the game.

With senior All-American Tyler Smith and junior reserves Cameron Tatum, Brian Williams and Melvin Goins suspended indefinitely, no one knew quite what to expect of the Vols' new-look lineup. After some early struggles produced an 11-14 deficit, Tennessee made a 14-0 run to go up 25-14. Chism opened the spurt with a 5-footer and later added a putback-and-one.

Charlotte closed to 29-23 but Hall scored six consecutive UT points - the last four on a pair of dynamic dunks - to close another 14-0 spurt. This one widened the gap to 43-23 en route to a 51-29 halftime bulge.

A three-point play by Maze to open the second half gave Tennessee its biggest lead (54-29) but the Vols went to sleep immediately thereafter. Charlotte outscored UT 21-2 over the next six minutes to pull within 56-50.

McBee drained his back-to-back 3s moments later, however, as the Vols weathered the storm and went on to win comfortably.

Despite the manpower shortage, Tennessee was unusually sharp. The Vols hit 57.6 percent of their field-goal tries (34 of 59) and 85.7 percent of their free-throw attempts (12 of 14). They recorded 19 assists and a manageable 15 turnovers. They were focused on defense, too, limiting the visitors to 36.2-percent shooting.

"I learned that we've got some step-up in us," Pearl said. "We caught Charlotte in a situation where they did not know what to expect, so they were off their game a little bit.

"But I liked the chemistry and I liked the way the guys came together."

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