Dec. 3, 2008
Knoxville, Tenn. (AP) -- Tyler Smith kept looking up at the scoreboard in Thompson-Boling Arena. He knew he was close.
The No. 10 Vols were romping to an 87-69 win over UNC-Asheville, and Smith was nearing the first triple-double in school history. When the junior forward made an assist on Scotty Hopson's 3-pointer with 7:47 remaining Wednesday night, Smith could finally relax.
His spot in the Tennessee record book was secure.
"It's an honor to be the first player to do that with all the great players who have come through this university," Smith said. "That new scoreboard we have shows us the stats and when I was close I just kept looking over there.
"I made sure Scotty would shoot that shot."
Smith finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, helping Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl notch his 400th career victory.
Smith said he hadn't had a triple-double since "probably prep school," even though he had been close on six other occasions at Tennessee.
The school has played 2,338 games in 100 years without having one.
"It's pretty fitting Tyler Smith was the guy to do it because he may be the most productive player I have ever coached," Pearl said. "When you talk about most valuable players, Tyler is the glue."
In his fourth season at Tennessee and 17th overall, Pearl joined some legendary company by winning his 400th after coaching 509 games. Only Adolph Rupp, Clair Bee, Jerry Tarkanian, Roy Williams and Henry Iba reached the 400-victory plateau in fewer games.
"When you're in the middle of a season, it's not a time to reflect on things like that," Pearl said. "This was about (victory) No. 6 (this season)."
It was an ugly one, too.
This sure didn't look like the same Tennessee team that ripped through Siena and Georgetown before finishing second to No. 5 Gonzaga at last week's Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
"We weren't inspired," Pearl said. "Sometimes when you just get back from a tournament with so many great teams, it takes a couple of days to recover."
It also didn't look like the same UNC-Asheville team that lost 116-48 to No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday.
Reid Augst and John Williams finished with 14 points apiece for the Bulldogs, who held Tennessee to 27.3 percent shooting the first 12 minutes and were within 18-16.
"We're a little small, but we're scrappy," Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "I wasn't disappointed with our effort. I'm just disappointed we're not playing better."
A strong inside move and three-point play from sophomore Brian Williams -- making his first start of the season -- finally got the Vols going with 5:34 left in the half. That play and a 3-pointer from Josh Tabb ignited a 20-9 run to make it 43-27 at the break.
Things stayed sloppy in the second half, but the Vols managed to pull away with some success from 3-point range. Tennessee managed five 3s in the second half, two by Cameron Tatum.
Tatum, Tabb and J.P. Prince finished with 10 points apiece for the Vols. Prince played despite an illness that required IV fluids earlier in the day.
The Vols came into the game ranked sixth nationally in rebounding margin at plus-12.3, and they battered the Bulldogs on the boards, 53-35.
Tennessee also improved its school-record home winning streak to 35 games. Tennessee hasn't lost at Thompson-Boling Arena since an 80-78 setback to Kentucky on March 1, 2006.
Only BYU (51) and Notre Dame (39) own longer active home winning streaks.