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Smith and Smith lead No. 7 UT to 80-63 win over Temple



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Wayne Chism

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- For a man who had just won his first basketball game of a new season, Tennessee's Bruce Pearl didn't sound happy.

The coach expressed concern about the performance of his starting five and his team's overall tenacity after his seventh-ranked Volunteers' 80-63 win over Temple on Friday night.

"The first few possessions we did not get anything done that we talked about before the game," Pearl said. "Part of our identity is that we are not tough enough. It is up to Ramar Smith and others to lead us in that direction."

In his third season at Tennessee, Pearl has worked hard to bring excitement back to a program that's been overshadowed locally by a wildly popular football program and the Lady Vols women's basketball team, which won its seventh national title last season. He wants this team to emulate his efforts.

Pearl has installed an uptempo style of play focusing on pressure defense and a quick-trigger offense. He's preaching a more all-around game this year with emphasis on rebounding and free-throw shooting in an effort to improve on last year's 24-11 record. Tennessee, which led the Southeastern Conference in scoring last season at almost 81 points per game, was dead last in team defense, allowing just over 75.

"We have a long way to go defensively, but I saw a good effort and I hope we can build on it," he said. "I was concerned we had not been challenged in the two exhibition games prior to tonight."

He'll need more help from preseason All-American Chris Lofton if the Vols are to better last year's historic run to the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament. Lofton, who averaged 20.8 points in 2006-07 while winning the Southeastern Conference player of the year award, had just one field goal and 10 points against Temple.

"His shot is not looking good right now but I am sure that will not last," Pearl said. "JaJuan Smith has emerged as our leader. He carried us when we needed him most."

JaJuan Smith, one of three Tennessee starters with that last name, scored 15 first-half points to help Tennessee break away from the Owls after a fairly even first 10 minutes of play. Ramar Smith added 14 points and newcomer Tyler Smith, who replaced departed local hero Dane Bradshaw in the starting lineup, scored nine points and added five assists and three steals.

Tennessee broke open a close first half with a 15-5 run which started with a tip-in by Wayne Chism and ended with JuJuan Smith's jumper that made it 29-19. Lofton scored his only field goal of the game in the final minute of the half and Josh Tabb added a tip-in at the buzzer for the Volunteers' 39-24 lead.

Temple cut its deficit to 10 points 4 minutes into the second half on two free throws by Dionte Christmas and one by Mark Tyndale. Tennessee then responded with an 11-0 run to go up 55-34 with 11:41 remaining as Tabb scored on a fast break and Jordan Howell hit a 3-pointer. Temple got no closer than 16 points the rest of the way.

Christmas had 12 points for the Owls (0-1), while Tyndale added 11 but the two combined to shoot 7-of-26. Tennessee (1-0) held Temple to 39 percent from the field while shooting 46 percent.


 

 

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