This one's for Tyler

Tennessee's players had an assortment of motivations heading into Saturday's game with Kentucky:

1. Reputation. Beating the second-ranked Big Blue would show the Big Orange can play with the NCAA's best teams.

2. Perception. Beating the high-profile Wildcats would help the Big Orange in the national polls and on the recruiting trail.

3. Postseason. Beating the Cats might get Tennessee better seedings for both the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

At least one Vol had an additional motivation that was much more personal than the three listed above, however. J.P. Prince wanted to win Saturday's game and dedicate it to fellow senior Tyler Smith, who was dismissed from the program on Jan. 8.

"This whole game was for Tyler," Prince said mere minutes after Tennessee shocked the basketball world by beating Kentucky 74-65. "This is something we talked about for years - beating Kentucky. That's one of the main reasons he came back for his senior year. I just wish he was here."

Both Prince (Memphis) and Smith (Pulaski) are native Tennesseans who began their college careers out of state - Prince at Arizona and Smith at Iowa. Both transferred to UT after one season and both played key roles as the Vols went 31-5 in 2007-08. Along the way the two grew to be dear friends.

"He's been like a brother to me," Prince said. "He's always with me, and I talk to him all the time. I just wish he could be here to enjoy this with me."

Smith didn't show up to watch Saturday's game at Thompson-Boling Arena but he was with the Vols - at least one of them - in spirit.

"He's not here to be with us," Prince said, "but this game is for him because he didn't get to enjoy a victory over Kentucky (which swept UT last season). I wanted to give him that, so this game is for him."

Clearly, Prince earned the right to dedicate the victory to whomever he pleased. He led the Vols in scoring with 20 points. And, though a mere 60-percent free-throw shooter, he nailed four of four foul shots in the final 24 seconds to ice the victory.

Asked afterward if he'd ever made four free throws in a row before, Prince smiled.

"I don't know," he replied. "It doesn't matter how many you make as long as you make 'em when it counts. That's the only thing I'd say: You've got to make 'em in the clutch. That's all that matters to me."

In addition to his late free throws, Prince drained a couple of early 3-pointers that helped Tennessee build a 40-29 halftime lead. His first opened an 18-0 run that gave the Vols an 18-4 bulge. His second 3 halted a Kentucky comeback that had narrowed the 14-point deficit to eight.

Prince made just 12.5 percent (3 of 24 shots) from behind the arc in 2008-09, yet he never hesitated to unload from long range on Saturday.

"I have to get my spot," he explained. "I'm not a 3-point shooter. I'm not in love with the 3-point line. I'd rather get to the basket. That's just how I am. When I set my feet I know I can knock 'em down. I just rarely set my feet."

Prince set his feet Saturday because he knew Kentucky coach John Calipari would be daring him to fire shots from outside.

"In a big game you really need to make 'em," Prince said. "Based on last game (Feb. 13 at Lexington) I knew Coach Cal was going to back off and try to make me shoot it, so I was prepared. I decided I was going to catch it and raise up no matter what happened. You just shoot 'em with confidence."

Prince wound up attempting three 3-pointers and making two - matching the output of the entire Kentucky team, which was 2 of 22 from behind the arc.

When asked if he has been giving Prince tips on 3-point shooting, Vol guard Scotty Hopson laughed.

"Nah," he said. "I think he might try to give me some tips on shooting 3s."


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