Texas took this battle of the UTs after dropping last December's meeting 111-105 in overtime in Knoxville.
"We've got a group of unselfish guys," Rick Barnes said. "They appreciate what Kevin (Durant) did and what he did for us, but if you watch the tape of last year's game against Tennessee, we're a much better team at this point than we were a year ago."
With the win, Texas improved to 5-0 on the season despite playing all five games without projected starter Gary Johnson, who has yet to be cleared to play due to a heart condition. Tennessee fell to 5-1.
The Vols scored the first two baskets of the game for a 4-0 lead, but a James bucket and six straight from Atchley gave the Horns their first lead at 8-7. Texas pushed to a seven-point lead at 25-18 but Tennessee fought back to grab a one-point advantage at 29-28. After the teams traded baskets for several minutes, the Vols still led at 39-38 with just under four minutes to play in the first half, but the Horns closed the half with a 12-2 run to take a 50-41 lead into the locker room. Texas shot 63 percent from the field for the half.
With Abrams' layup on the opening possession after the break, the Longhorn lead stood at double digits, where it stayed the rest of the game.
"This was a great win for us," Abrams said. "At the beginning of the season, I didn't think we could beat the No. 7 team in the country. We're young, still trying to get stuff figured out."
The Horns' next chance to "get stuff figured out" comes Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Erwin Center vs. Texas Southern, although the next real test will be next Sunday in Los Angeles vs. UCLA.