Vols handle tough Temple with tenacity

Tennessee’s Chris Lofton, center, is surrounded by Temple defenders during Friday night’s game at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols won their season opener 80-73.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee’s Chris Lofton, center, is surrounded by Temple defenders during Friday night’s game at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols won their season opener 80-73.

Tennessee’s Chris Lofton, center, is surrounded by Temple defenders during Friday night’s game at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols won their season opener 80-73.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

Tennessee’s Chris Lofton, center, is surrounded by Temple defenders during Friday night’s game at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols won their season opener 80-73.

Tennessee got a taste of competition Friday night before spitting out an 80-63 win over the Temple Owls.

The runnin', gunnin' Vols of coach Bruce Pearl's first two seasons sputtered at times, and preseason All-American Chris Lofton was 0-for-5 from 3-point range en route to a 10-point effort.

But UT's vastly improved half-court defense and 23 forced turnovers turned the tide as the No. 7-ranked Vols won before the capacity crowd of 21,817 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Senior JaJuan Smith led the Vols with 15 points - all in the first half - while Ramar Smith scored 14 and Wayne Chism had 11.

"Yeah, I had 15 points,'' JaJuan Smith said, "but I'm more excited about my five steals.''

Indeed, most all of Pearl's post-game praise was for the defense, as Temple's Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale, the leading scorers in the Atlantic 10 Conference last season, were a combined 7-of-26 shooting for 23 points.

"You definitely can see some of the fruits of what our focus has been,'' Pearl said. "We have a long ways to go defensively, but I think you can see an improved defense effort, focus and physicality.

"We took a shot early, and the guys responded.''

Tennessee held a 39-24 lead at the half, but only after Temple punched the Vols in the mouth after winning the opening tip, jumping to an early 14-9 lead with an in-your-face style of play.

With the crowd growing uneasy, the Vols rallied. Sparked by a Wayne Chism tip-in at the 13:09 mark, Tennessee went on a 16-2 run over the next 4 1/2 minutes to go up 25-16 on a Tyler Smith transition layup.

"I came out after the first timeout and told Duke (Crews), this guy is killing me, and I have to go back at him,'' Chism said. "They (Temple) were pretty physical; they're from Philly, so they think they are hard guys. We had to show them we could play with them."

The Owls made just 1 of 10 shots during the Vols' pivotal first-half 16-2 run and turned the ball over seven times before Semaj Inge scored a bucket at the 6:30 mark. A Tyndale free throw followed, and Temple was trailing 25-19.

But the Vols staged yet another run. This time, it was JaJuan Smith setting the tone. JaJuan Smith had three steals and scored seven consecutive points during a 9-2 spurt that put UT up 34-21 on his 3-pointer from the corner with 5:02 left in the half.

Temple staged an 8-2 rally early in the second half to draw to 44-34 when Tyndale split a pair of free throws with 15:32 left.

But the Vols answered with an 11-0 run, going up 55-34 when Ramar Smith capped the scoring with a drive to the basket off a JaJuan Smith steal with 12:02 left.

The Owls drew no closer than 16 points for the remainder of the game.

"A lot of their scoring came off their defense,'' Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I think they make you do some things in your offense you're not ready for. You can't simulate how hard they play on the defensive end.''

Pearl pointed out that Lofton was part of the defensive mix and suggested that might have affected his offensive output.

"Chris, Ramar, JaJuan, Josh Tabb and Jordan (Howell) put the clamps on them (Christmas and Tyndale)," Pearl said. "Chris expounded a lot of energy. His shot didn't look good, but I'm sure that's something that's not going to last."

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Comments » 32

orvol writes:

Way to start the season with a W.

vol4good#206163 writes:


Titan writes:

"Reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time last year" Wow - so that was just a bad dream I had that we lost a big lead to Ohio State in the second half. I feel much better.

amyslins writes:

yes we might have won, but i thought we looked very sloppy against temple. turnovers were a problem and of course, lofton hitting a shot or two (remember he did have two airball three point field goal attempts). we obviously have some things to work out!

dfreeman writes:

Did anyone notice that Florida beat some almost Highschool team by ten?? I think 75-65! Kentucky lost to Gardner Webb!! Wow!! We truly live in a parallel universe now with football being the way it is!! However, love seeing us play sloppy bball and Chris Lofton airballing shots and still winning by 17!! Used to we lose by 17!! We win out in football it's the sec championship and we are #7 in Basketball!!! It's great to be a Tennessee Vol!!!!

bobo_the_vol writes:

Yea I was thinking during the game "Chris doesn't have many points and we're still winning."

thats nice =D

nickperkinsalc#627224 writes:

I think the pressing/trapping defense this year is going to be even better because of the Vols depth. They can wear teams down. JaJuan Smith is going to get a lot of national attention before the season is over. Lofton is still going to be Chris Lofton and T. Smith is a more talented version of Dane Bradshaw. It's going to be an exciting season.

tigervol9802 writes:

jwraymond - You must have been watching a different game that the one I was at because this team has a ways to go to achieve what the talent on it says it can accomplish.

They better figure out a way to hit free throws (I quit counting at 7 of 13) and play better defense in the half court as they gave up too many easy buckets.

The same weaknesses I saw last year are rearing their ugly heads again after 1 game. After hearing about how much time they spent working on those areas in the offseason, I must admit I was expecting a better showing.

If those two areas don't improve, this team will not reach it's potential - a return date in San Antonio.

dfreeman writes:

Wow tigervol, one game into the season!! Don't you think that maybe you're jumping the gun on the "weaknesses"??

amyslins writes:

i am with you tigervol9802 to an extent. we have something that need to be fixed. here are just a few of the things that we need to fix that are jsut things that we did not fix from last year:

almost getting out rebounded by temple: 40-37
assist to turnovers: 18-15
free-throw %: 69.6 %

and this one was surprising...three-point percentage: 27.3%

now dont' get me wrong, a win is a win. but there are some things that need to change before san antonio

redneckerson writes:

A 17 point opening game victory against a tough opponent isn't good enough??? The "self-styled commentators" (amyslin and tigervol) are showing up on the basketball boards.

jclowers writes:

A win is a win. This was a tough team to open your season against. You want to bring in some semi-tough team so that you can get your players on the same page. Bruce Pearl had an opportunity to bring in a tradition-rich program in Temple and they did. Its tough to go from playing 2 nobodys and then playing against a team with a lot of speed and length. Tyler Smith, JaJuan Smith, Ramar Smith (Da Smith Boyz) all had their moments tonight. Chris Lofton looked very unselfish, yet he seems to be struggling in the refurbished arena. Wayne Chism played strong and so did Josh Tabb at times. We definitely have tons of areas to get better, yet this was a good win.

creepykev#228270 writes:

John Ward looked suprised at the all the heart felt love sent his way. Man I miss him. Devo kind of went on a little long though.

dowdpat#654244 writes:

Tigervol, Let's calm down. Bruce Pearl's teams take about ten games to start clicking. We almost lost to UNC-Wilmington last November before getting blown out by Butler. It took till the second half of the Texas game last year for the lights to come on. My only concern is to improve Free Throw Shooting, something that never got on track last season. Don't worry though come March this team will be a monster!

eb502us#225637 writes:

Didn't see the game but its hard to believe some people are already predicting doom and gloom after a 17 pt. win in the first game of the season. If we still had Buzz, everyone would be flying high after beating a respectable Temple team (not that Buzz could beat them with this same group), but to think some of you are already criticising this team is redicuolous. Anyway, guys like Tigervol9802 need to swatted to back to where they belong much like Hamilton did to Buzz.

callen825#321558 writes:

Many of the posters here decline to remember that we have had such a bad basketball team for so many years. The last time we were really noteworthy goes back to Ernie and Bernie, circa '77. Bruce Pearl is going to be a great at TN. Sit back and let he and his young men work, let him recruit, and we'll be contenders very soon, if not this year.
Watching from Ohio.

GreerVol22 writes:

I think we should be counting our blessings. When Pearl subbed 4 guys at once befor we went on the run I was really speculative. But, the bench is so deep that there isn't much drop. Overall nice job with decent competition.

volfan8 writes:

Solid defensive effort, offensively very sloppy at times. I love Chisms line saying, "there from philly so they think there tough, we had to show them we can play to." We need to get better for the classic coming up with tex and WV but nice start against a solid Temple team

Hunter writes:

"You can't simulate how hard they play on the defensive end." - Temple coach.

"You can't simulate how hard they play on the defensive end." - Temple coach.

Sounded so nice, I wanted to quote it twice! JaJuan is more proud of 5 steals than 15 points? Yessir, that is good news. When (not if) Lofton clicks in, this team is DEADLY. I'll be "that guy" - I have set aside the Final Four dates on my day planner so that I can be "sick" from work....

tigervol9802 writes:

Good grief, quit reading too much into a post and quit making Temple out to be better than they are.

I noted two concerns that hurt the team last year and will do the same this year if not fixed. I just was wanting to see more out of the gate last night in those two areas.

Colliervol writes:

Be realistic fellas. Temple is picked like 8th in the Atlantic 10. It was a typical season opener, some good and some not so good. Plenty of things for BP to hammer them on especially how the first team started the game so sluggishly. Really excited about the press defense though. Not worried about Lofton and the offense as that will come around. They do have as much quality depth as I've seen in awhile.

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Most telling stat of the game, for me: we shot 69.6 percent from the line. This is an improvement over last year, no doubt, but not where we want to be.

Free throws will kill us or save us this year.

King30 writes:

18 in a row at TBA and counting...
Jajuan sparking the big run and 5 thefts.
Tyler filling up the stat sheet with 5 assists and 3 steals.
Tabb with 5 assists in only 15 minutes.
Lofton 8 for 8 from the line...Lofton, Chism, and Jajuan 12 for 12 from the line.
Ryan, Josh, and Brian grabbing 5 boards apiece in 15, 15, and 17 minutes.
The best half court defense we've seen in awhile.
So much more athletic than last year. Tatum and Tyler are as good looking, athletically, as any duo we've seen come in here in awhile.
And how about our little All-American, struggling to score, giving up an easy lay-up for a Tyler Smith jam. You gotta love this guy.
Did anybody else think Pearl came off as a little cocky on the Tennessee Tip-off show last night?

redneckerson writes:

tigervol, not reading too much into your post - just not the least bit interested in your "concerns" after a 17 point opening game victory. My guess is that Bruce will address any of area of concern without your assistance). KnoxVegas already has plenty of "self-styled commentators".

bobo_the_vol writes:

I have to be impressed with this win -- Tennessee will be hit hard physically this year, you have to expect that. Temple has some oversized Post players that were able to grab some rebounds.

And remember, we were down 14-9 .. Kentucky went down 14-0 to a worse team (I would know .. That lil' team from my girlfriend's hometown is a private Christian University)

So, a 17 point win. 17 point wins get two thumbs up from Bobo.

tigervol9802 writes:

Well red, if you don't like opinion, then stay off the website because opinions will be posted here.

redneckerson writes:

no problem with opinions tiger - just expressing my opinion that your opinion is asinine.

tigervol9802 writes:


Please feel free to attach a real name with that opinion. We can meet and discuss if you would like.

redneckerson writes:

first, tiger, "if you don't like opinion stay off the website."

second, I'm not about to put my personal info on here but if you want to put yours, we can certainly arrange for a discussion.

CoverOrange writes:

My god. Can't some of you just agree to disagree? None, and I mean NONE, of anyone's opinion on here will make one shoelace of difference on the court.

Oenoboy writes:

What's wrong with you people? Get a life boys and stop measuring your tools in front of each other.

phi0129 writes:

I personally enjoyed watching this new and improved TN basketball team. While I agree that the team played sloppy at times, our tempo and hard nosed D made me feel good about this team. Not to mention that our depth is outstanding! What would've happened last year if Lofton shot like this in games? It seems to me that he is not going to have to carry the team on his back as much as certain games last year. When he starts hitting, watch out! I was very impressed with our bench, and I think this is going to be a great season. Give it time. The team will mesh and Pearl will be recognized as the genius he is when the season ends.

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