Just enough at end

Vols would 'have lost a year ago'

Tennessee's Ryan Childress goes up for a layup and is defended by West Virginia's Joe Alexander during the first half of a semi-final men's college basketball game in the Legends Classic Tournament at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Photo by Rich Schultz, Associated Press

Tennessee's Ryan Childress goes up for a layup and is defended by West Virginia's Joe Alexander during the first half of a semi-final men's college basketball game in the Legends Classic Tournament at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

NEWARK, N.J. - Tennessee's 74-72 win over West Virginia might as well have been played on one of the nearby inner-city blacktop courts.

There would have been a lot of skinned up knees and elbows, but the combative style of play fit perfectly.

Instead, the teams battled it out in the new Prudential Center, which with 5,310 fans on hand had the ambiance of a home improvement warehouse.

JaJuan Smith hit 3-of-4 free throw attempts over the final 13.2 seconds as UT turned away the scrappy Mountaineers (2-1).

The No. 7 Vols (5-0) advance to play No. 15 Texas (4-0) in the championship game of the Legends Classic at 7 o'clock tonight (TV: VERSUS). The Longhorns defeated New Mexico State 102-87.

"I promise you this would have been a game Tennessee would have lost a year ago at this time," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "Our kids did compete, and our kids did guard, but what they did defensively bothered us. We could not run our offense."

The Vols had 13 assists and 15 turnovers while hitting 39.6 percent from the floor and getting out-rebounded 42-33.

Chris Lofton of UT scored a game-high 19 points but missed a pair of free throws with 23.4 seconds left that could have iced the game, as the Vols were up 71-67.

"I almost cost us the game," said Lofton, who was 5-of-15 from the floor and 6-of-10 from the free throw line. "We didn't play great but we won, and that's all that matters."

West Virginia nearly made Lofton pay for his free throw misses when Alex Rouff hit a 3-pointer with 14.2 seconds left to pull the Mountaineers to 71-70.

But then JaJuan Smith stepped up with his free throw heroics, making 3-of-4 in the final seconds to render a last-second West Virginia jumper meaningless.

"We haven't seen what kind of (UT) pressure in practice, and they hadn't seen what we do," said first-year Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins. "This is all new for our kids, so it's hard to make some adjustments."

West Virginia erased UT's 33-28 halftime lead after a pair of technical fouls involving Wayne Chism were called on the Vols within a 15-second span.

The first technical was on Pearl after he argued a call that went against Chism at the 15:26 mark with the Vols up 39-33.

Mountaineers' Joe Alexander appeared to push off on Chism prior to Chism getting whistled for a foul.

Da'Sean Butler hit both technical shots, and Alexander sank his free throws to cut UT's lead to 39-37.

After missing a shot on the offensive end, Chism punched the ball after it had gone out of bounds and was called for a technical.

Again, Butler converted both free throws to tie the game 39-39 with 15:11 remaining. West Virginia was also awarded the ball, and a Darris Nichols' jumper gave the Mountaineers a 41-39.

Tennessee answered and took the lead for good when Ramar Smith scored on a three-point play and JaJuan Smith hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Vols up 45-41 with 13:41 left.

UT gradually pulled away, leading by nine when Lofton hit a 3-pointer at the 6:55 mark to make it 61-52.

The Mountaineers rallied, pulling within 61-60 with 4:48 left when Butler, who scored a team-high 16 points, split a pair of free throws.

The West Virginia rally was aided by UT having missed 5-of-6 free throws over a four-minute stretch.

The Vols still managed to build their lead back up to 67-60 when Tyler Smith hit a pair of free throws with 2:47 remaining.

But West Virginia scored on consecutive possessions to pull back within 67-65 on Wellington Smith's 3-pointer with 1:42 left.

A pair of Lofton free throws gave UT breathing room, but then Nichols hit a floater with 1:11 left and it was 69-67.

Lofton missed an NBA-range trey, and after a loose ball scramble a jump ball was called with the possession arrow in West Virginia's favor.

But a Butler jumper went awry and JaJuan Smith was fouled with 35.5 seconds remaining. JaJuan hit both free throws to make it 71-67.

Butler missed another shot and Lofton was fouled, setting up his crucial free throw misses that gave West Virginia hope.

"Considering the hours we're finishing up, we'll be challenged against Texas," Pearl said. "Texas is the best transition offensive team we'll play all year long."

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Comments » 38

FatherVol writes:

FREE THROWS! There, it's been said. No one else needs to wax eloquent on that stat. Television? What television? Our paper said it was only on the radio, so I listened online while working on Sunday's homily.

GrandCanyonVol writes:

It is hard to believe that this team cannot hit free throws. Coach Pearl, can you help these boys with their FT? Why is this so difficult to do? I could hit FT's when playing in Grade School. We didn't know you were to make a big deal out of FT's. We just stepped to the line and made them. No one had to help us make Ft's. You will improve or you as a team will lose to the teams who are good and can hit FT's. They are FREE and should be made. That is frustating to have a team with this much talent and throw away so many points at the line. My wife said she could shoot better than that. She probably could. It's not that hard. Happy Thanksgiving from the Grand Canyon.

BluetickBlues writes:

Looks like this team is gonna need a few weeks to iron out some wrinkles. The offense looks lethargic in the halfcourt and we don't have good play at point guard. I am interested to see what J.P. Prince can do at the point. Some discussion was made in preseason about his ability to handle the ball at the point. Do we have any players that can drive to the free throw line and hit a pull up jumper? Jordan can't get any seperation off the dribble and Ramar drives all the way to the front rim and either turns the ball over or gets blocked instead of pulling up. Tyler Smith was noticable absent on the offensive end sans a couple of nice dimes to Crews. Maybe we can get some better play tommorow against Texas, if not we're beat cause they actually looked ready to play.

amyslins writes:

quick making excuses plasticman...we did not play well at all in many areas. can someone tell me when we are going to shoot the three well, make free throws when they matter, and when lofton is going to show up please?

lpelleg1#634551 writes:

Yeah, Texas is probably going to look like the best team in the tournament when they draw New Mexico State. West Virginia isn't great, but they offer a much more physical challenge than New Mexico State, especially on defense. Tennessee definitely needs to hit more shots tomorrow and, after watching the style of defense Texas plays, that should be less of a challenge than it was tonight. It's also a testament to Tennessee's improved defense that they can shoot the way they did and still come away with a win over a pretty good team. Let's make it three in a row over the 'Horns.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Too dang many points left at the FT line again.

Also, where wete Tabb and Tatum???

chrisw2967 writes:

Im not sure if Lofton has let the pressure of all american mess with his head or if he just cant seem to get it together right now or what. But if his shooting dont come around all together then were going to be hurting. I know hes not the whole team but hes 75% of our off.I watched the Texas game and if they come out and play like they did tonight against Texas then it will be a long night , I agree with the other post on here that we look like an up and down team right now. Go Vols!!! beat Tx

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Just doesn't seem like we've found our chemistry yet. I know Pearl is experimenting with lineups and mixes. I just keep thinking of what Crews and Chism did last year playing together.

Maybe Crews, Chism, Lofton, Tyler, Jajuan?

Or Crews, Chism, Tyler, Jajuan, and Ramar?

Who knows? Bruce Almighty does, I'm sure.

Hope we find our mojo soon...like within the next 18 hours.

Sleep well, guys, and sweet dreams.

cphil writes:

I have to agree with Plasticman about one thing, the refs were inconsistent in their calls at best. It's hard to watch a game and not have issues with the calls, but this one bothered me. The Alexander kid was throwing his forearm all night, and even though he ultimately fouled out, I don't recall a single foul called on him for it. Even near the end of the when Chism got called for a foul, you could read Coach Pearl's lips when he told Chism "I didn't see it."... neither did I.

The tv commentators, especially the color guy, were as biased as they could be. They obviously think any Big East team is superior. We've just got to play better and earn respect.

Anyway, it's still a win. I'm just waiting till the Vols get in sync. Final Four!!!

Huntingdonvol writes:

Scoring sells tickets!!!!Defence wins chapionships!go vols beat kentucky and texas!!!!

volfans_1#225396 writes:

An UGLY win is still a win !! Free throws are not just being missed but being missed badly. If we finish the shot and be smart with the ball on the steals we make we win going away but that didn't happen. Chris Lofton please step up and play like you are capable of playing !!!! Someone has got to take the leadership role on this team !!! Does anyone know if that was a man or woman referee with blonde hair ?

trap2240#1340138 writes:

It is still November!!! You people don't get it!!! This is college b-ball. We will be fine and I'm lookin forward to us peaking around March like last season. Only difference is this team won't be worn out when we get there. This time last year we were embarassed by Butler. I'm happy with a win over a Huggy Bear team in the first month of the season in New Jersey any day. This team proved last night that they could beat a good team and some hyperactive refs outside of TBA. Quit panicking!!!

scvolalum writes:

Look for Lofton to light em' up tonight. Texas won't handle the pressure as well as WVU. We'll out rebound them,too. Those commentators are misinformed.

chefjorge writes:

What Trap said. Guess what. We're going to lose some games. We will almost surely lose conference games. It has been since Indiana in 75-76 that a team has gone without a loss and we ain't them. You all are so hopped up on football that you can't quite understand that losing in hoops really isn't all that important in the early going. Losing to a guy that has been the National Coach of the year more that once wouldn't have been a big deal at all. Huggins can flat out coach. We won the game on a not so good night for us. Lofton IS a superior shooter and WILL come around. Pearl IS a good coach and WILL get this team ready for March, when stuff is really on the line. That's what matters, not the dumb-ass-Sub-Hub-Legends-Classic. Just when this become a classic anyway.

chefjorge writes:

"than once" sorry, typo.

murrayvol writes:

Say what you will about Huggy Bear's character and conduct, he knows basketball. He knows what other teams want to do and how to keep them from getting it done. Not a choir boy but a damn good coach. Disappointed in the technicals and free throw gaffes but glad to beat the best team (by far) we've played to date. Hope there's enough left in the tank for Texas.

splinterdand#602266 writes:

The Vols are now experiencing what the Kentuckys and North Carolinas of the world have always dealt with. How to get enough playing time for each player that deserves to play on a deep squad. They seem to play together very well and that's a testimony to the talents of Pearl as well as the character of this group of guys. The free throws are frustrating, and I hope it doesn't cost the Vols at tourney time. But, West Virginia is an extremely well coached team, too. Their coach has certainly proved himself in the past. It's going to be a great year!

splinterdand#602266 writes:

P.S. Relax, guys. A tough, sloppy win over West Virginia beats a loss to Gardner-Webb, doesn't it?

slambob2#228938 writes:

The announcers said Texas was clearly the best team at this stage of the season. But they gave up 87 points to New Mexico State while UT was beating last year's NIT champs and a Bob Huggins team with Lofton costing us possessions. This UT team could stomp on Texas if we play our game. The Vols are very, very good.

Winning a game where the calls were wierd, the shots wouldn't fall and the other team played great defense and made almost all of their points at the free throw line shows this team can win every time they step on the court.

I can't wait to see us when Lofton gets his stroke back. Oh, baby.

tennisvol writes:

No doubt the Vols have the talent. I'm wondering why Lofton is missing so many shots so far. I think he will eventually turn things around. Go Vols!

DSaVol writes:

I know only one thing - it's cold as you know what here in Jersey!!! As for the game, not sure what most of you were expecting but this game was exactly what I thought it would be - physical and ugly. That's the style Huggins has always had and with WVU's larger lineup there was no way in hell he was gonna try to run with us. Positives aplenty for the Vols though. Held WVU to 39% shooting for the game, forced 19 turnovers with 10 steals in what was essentially a half court game, and most importantly didn't show signs of panic down the stretch to name a few. Of course we didn't shoot well and missed alot of open shots including 6 layups in first half alone. But not to worry, I don't think CLo and JaJuan are going 8 for 25 combined too many nights. Good to see they got 18 free throws between them too.

Now not to pick an argument but Touchdown, not sure what game you watched. You said "Free throw shooting nearly cost us another game. West Va hit far more than we did and that was why it was close down the stretch." Fact is we MADE more (25) than WVU even shot (24).

Bottom line is I really don't care - I think we showed last night that we can play a VERY physical game (you listening Memphis?) and still come out on top on a bad shooting night, with Tyler not a factor at all, and poor point guard play. Texas will make a HUGE mistake tonight if they get in an up and down game with us (which they will). Vols by 10 tonight!

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

jwraymond, I dont know what game you were watching but if you consider our AA is "back to normal" with 5-15, 3-10 on 3s, 6-10 FF then hes quite overated and thats not going to cut it. Quit with the "aside for the freethrows" overlook, if hes not hitting his shots he has to make FTs in clutch time--he was not clutch, JaJuan was instead with the freethrows down the stretch. Its time enough to quit excusing Chris's bad shooting--if hes a legit AA its now time to start playing like it.

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

stats tell us hes hitting less than a third of his shots---not acceptable for a shooter--if the treys were on the mark they would have gone in ( what kind of crazy comment was that--a little miss scores no more points than a bad miss)--not like hes piling up assists---him wanting to shoot it from anywhere doesn't impress me---he forces some and makes bad shot selections too--his 3s didnt win the game---jajuans FTs won the game cause Mr Reliable missed 2 in row---wait till he starts performing before u ordain him the next michael jordan

MANVOL writes:

FatherVol Comcast channel 53...free throws cost VOLS close games last year, but its still early...GO VOLS!!!

huntwithmojo writes:

UT saw a mirror of itself in WVU. It's a testimate to the team that they were poised enough to win this game. FT would have made this a comfortable win and depth will be HUGE late in the season. What I don't hear anyone talking about is the VAST improvement in the Vols half court defense. As Pearl said "I promise you we would have lost this game same time last year." Texas doesn't play D like we and WVU do and they better watch out. That was a well coached team and it was like a NCAA game we'll see. I like this team a lot. (minus the free throws) Although, UT did hit more FT then they attempted. That's something Coach K preaches.

huntwithmojo writes:

That being said I was looking for Chris to step up more. The bottom line is that UT can win without him being at his best. UT'll blow teams away when he's at his best. And despite his shooting he STILL played solid D.

amyslins writes:

jwraymon1...i am TOTALLY backing yabadabadoo1026. yes most of the time stats do not tell everything, but in such an instance, i think they are true. ok he hit two down late in the game...what happened the first 35 mins? two free throws missed...if i do say so myself, this happened last year and we ended up loosing to ohio state at ohio state last year. so i cannot understand where you are saying he is back. my question is, let's say lofton just for some reason does not get back to the i can shot over everyone and from anywhere form....who takes the shot at the end?

Titan writes:

Dang TDTN, I have to come over to the BB articles to agree with you - can't argue with anything you said. We've got a lot of new parts and one key missing part (DB) from last year. It will take a while to find the right combinations but BP will get it sorted out by conference time and tourney time. These preseason games are great because you see different styles of play and get to experiment. Although you'd like to win them all, a loss here really isn't that critical. BP's schedule and approach reminds me of the way Pat has prepared her teams for years. We'll be fine. If Chris Lofton's shooting is the worst thing folks have to worry about - we're in great shape.

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

i'm more impressed with making the shots from somewhere rather than wanting to shoot from anywhere---why do feel its more acceptable for your god than anyone else to force shots and have some bad shot selection????

I'd be giving him a lot more credit for the 3s down the stretch had he made the 2 clinching FTs---that negates the claim he was clutch last nite---2 3s at the 4 minute mark didnt win the game--JSs FTs in the final 1.5 minutes did

i really dont like CLs accepting attitude post game that "all that matters is we won"----what matters as well is getting better every game---I'll be just in his corner as everyone else if that happens but to this point he is not getting better every games---the stats dont lie

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

Missing all those clutch free throws is a big concern, but I believe this team will rectify that deficiency. The other big concern is that they miss a lot of easy inside shots. Got to get that touch and make 80% of you shots in the paint. This team is extremely athletic and needs to play up-tempo offense to be successful. Juan Smith must keep his drives under control - he is so quick but must make his lay-ups!!!!

Hunter writes:

To quote Bert Bertlekamp - "Bob, they look like they're struggling with that dang ball. It's hard and slippery and light as a tennis ball."

No, seriously. I've played some pick-up games with "The Rock" brand basketball and it is absolutely terrible! I actually think our poor shooting and turnovers have a great deal to do with that. With our own brand of ball at home we score over 100 every time and have 40 assists. Go figure. We shall overcome!

amyslins writes:

i think that too many of us are content with being mediocre right now. and that is what we are. i personally want the best. i want that final four spot. i want that national title. but right now, we are going to have to work on many many things to get to the best!

volball4 writes:

We are not as good as we (the team) thinks they are.They need alot of work on the offensive side of the ball.They shoot like a junior pro team (AWFUL)on the line and on the floor period.

DSaVol writes:

Once again we're infested with know-nothing morons like yabadababobblehead...you're obviously wanting to be JuJuan's agent when he lands that big contract in Turkey or somewhere! Get off Lofton's ass you never-was-wannabe. Lofton works harder and has achieved more than you will if you live to be 150. I would attempt to enlighten you as to all of the other ways CLo is contributing to these wins but you're obviously to damned stupid to understand any of them.

Hunter - the ball has absolutely nothing to do with anything. We practice with the ball that is going to be used in the next game and "The Rock" was used in the home games against Ark-Mont and Prairie View. We've scored over 100 at home because we played terrible teams not because of the ball.

amyslime - are you related to that idiot yabadabapoopmouth??? Mediocre????? Okay. 5-0 and #7 is NOT mediocre moron. You want mediocre go check out that other team at 1:30 today. You want a Final Four spot? STFU and be patient!

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

DSaVol--another idiot koolaider who only wants to see the good reality and ignore the bad reality. I'm no JS agent but he did more to win the game than JL who is not playing like an AA--- other players also contribute also other than scoring so quit stretching for reasons to glorify your god---so why dont you elighten me and show me what you got. And you think 5-0 actually means something with 3 low level opponents?

Yes, its early--I think we will be fine, good players and great coach but its time to quit making excuses for the AA. Tonite will not be a defensive game, lets hope he breaks out tonite. Shooting slumps are for late in the season when the legs are tired--you dont start the season in this kind of slump after a whole offseason to work on your shot. But of course you DSovol are the official authority on such stuff

bpowers74#354937 writes:

I can't believe these people. Mediocre?? People get spoiled way to quick around here. I mean come on it's still November!! Really, some of these comments have to be made out of ignorance. At least I hope it's ignorance because if it's not we have some stupid fans around here.

King30 writes:

Here we go...
Anybody out there?

Los writes:

RE: DSaVol Post

...Bottom line is I really don't care - I think we showed last night that we can play a VERY physical game (you listening Memphis?)- Yes, we are...and you think Texas got on you guys, wait until you play us! GO TIGERS!

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