CHATTANOOGA - This one was personal from the opening tip.
Fans crammed what was once known as "The Roundhouse," all but hanging over the court as the bodies collided beneath them throughout the night.
University of Tennessee schools from Knoxville and Chattanooga battled for basketball bragging rights before an ESPNU national cable audience and a record crowd of 11,221 Tuesday night at the McKenzie Center.
The Vols survived an inspired effort from the Mocs, winning 76-70, but not before Chattanooga reminded them what it is like to play in a hostile road environment.
Chris Lofton led five Tennessee players in double figures with 16 points, while Stephen McDowell paced five Chattanooga players in double figures with 14.
"They had the band going, their fans were yelling any kind of cuss words," Tennessee senior Jordan Howell said. "That kind of got us jacked up … and got us ready."
Vols' coach Bruce Pearl, who elected to bring UT to Chattanooga for the first time in 25 years, expected no less.
"Maybe some Tennessee basketball fans would have expected us to blow them out," said Pearl, whose 10th-ranked team improved to 8-1. "That was not our expectation. This team (Chattanooga) wins 82 percent of its home games. We went against the odds and pulled out an 18-percenter."
The Mocs (4-4) served notice early they were to be taken seriously, jumping out to a 4-0 lead.
"Playing Tennessee at home, that's personal," Chattanooga coach John Shulman said, "and our kids took it personal."
The Vols led by as many as eight points in the first half when Ryan Childress hit a 3-pointer at the 14:17 mark to make it 16-8.
But time and again Chattanooga came back. The Mocs, playing in special black uniforms for the first time this season, trailed only 34-33 at the half.
"How many (halftime) adjustments can you make when your starting (No.) five man doesn't have a defensive rebound?" Pearl said. "At that point, we had one defensive rebound out of the center position."
The Mocs' 25-11 advantage on the boards through the first 20 minutes mitigated the 21 turnovers Tennessee had forced to that point.
The numbers balanced out slightly in the second half, but when the final horn sounded Chattanooga still held a 46-31 rebounding edge and the Vols had forced 34 turnovers while committing 17 themselves. Pearl said the Mocs' big rebounding edge and the high number of turnovers his team forced were the only things that surprised him.
The Mocs' spunk did not. Chattanooga opened the second half on a 4-0 run to claim a 37-34 lead on a Marcus Watts' dunk that sent the crowd through the roof.
After the teams exchanged baskets, the Vols settled in, going on a 6-0 run to reclaim the lead at 45-41 on a Duke Crews' dunk with 16:54 remaining.
Tennessee didn't trail again, though it took a 14-3 run fueled by a pair of Howell 3-pointers to give the Vols a 61-49 lead with 7:36 left.
Double digits proved to be just enough breathing room.
A JaJuan Smith 3-pointer gave UT a 70-57 lead with 1:15 left.
But the Mocs weren't finished, forcing three straight turnovers with their press to go on a 6-0 run and make it 70-63 with 32.5 seconds left.
The only mistake Chattanooga made after that was putting Lofton and the red-hot Howell on the free-throw line over the final 20 seconds.
Lofton went 4-for-4 and Howell hit both of his free throws in those closing seconds to secure the victory.
"It wasn't easy," said Lofton, who was 4-of-13 shooting including 4-of-12 beyond the 3-point arc. "But these difficult tests will get us ready for tough games down the road."
Tyler Smith, who had 10 points and led the Vols with five rebounds and six steals, gave credit to Chattanooga.
"They came in ready, and they played a great game," he said. "Now, it's study time."
The Vols are off for finals and don't play again until 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 when they play Western Kentucky in Nashville. Tennessee's only home game in December comes on the 19th against UNC-Asheville.