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North Carolina A&T invited Tennessee to get into a run-and-gun 3-point shootout, and the Vols were happy to oblige.
Senior All-American Chris Lofton scored a season-high 24 points to lead 11th-ranked UT to a 93-59 win over the Aggies before a season-low crowd of 17,092 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"North Carolina A&T really sinks (defensively) on penetration,'' said Vols men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, whose team improved to 6-1 and ran its home-court win streak to 21. "They invite you to shoot the three-ball.''
Tennessee's 50 attempts from beyond the arc is a school record, and Lofton's 20 3-point attempts are a UT individual game record.
"Are you sure?''asked Lofton, who hit eight treys including a run that saw him drain 6-of-7. "I got a lot of open looks, and even though I missed a lot, my teammates told me to keep shooting.''
North Carolina A&T (4-3) held an 11-10 lead with 13:49 left in the first half before a Big Orange barrage saw Lofton make six 3-pointers in a three-minute, 40-second window.
Lofton's streak triggered a 23-4 run that Tyler Smith capped with a three-point play to put UT up 35-15 with 7:40 left in the first half.
"The big thing was we felt the momentum come to us,'' Lofton said, "and the crowd got into it and that helped us.''
Smith and Josh Tabb were significant contributors, and not just because of their season-high scoring performances.
In addition to his 17 points, Smith grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds en route to his first double-double with the Vols.
"I'm just trying to find my niche,'' said Smith, who also had four steals. "Coach wants me to make plays, rebound and defend.''
Tabb, who scored 10 points, proved to be the benefactor of Pearl's new nine-man rotation.
"The adjustment in the rotation was to get Josh Tabb in the game more …,'' Pearl said. "I like Josh Tabb as a guy you can look at and see our identity. He's a physical defender, he rebounds his position, and he's unselfish.''
One of the first comments out of Tabb's mouth in the post-game concerned freshman Cameron Tatum, who played a season-low six minutes.
"I feel kind of bad for Cameron, because he has come in and done a great job,'' said Tabb, who posted career-highs in rebounds (eight), assists (four) and steals (four) while playing a season-high 25 minutes.
Not to worry, Pearl said, Tatum's time is coming.
"Cameron is going be special; he just lives on a team with two senior wings,'' Pearl said. "Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith are our two leading scores, and here's this freshman that comes in and just lights it up.
"I told Cameron, when you get in there, I want you to do your thing.''
Tatum did just that, scoring nine points in his six minutes including two sensational dunks and a three-point play.
Pearl also pointed to the performance of freshman center Brian Williams, who was third on the team with six rebounds despite playing just 12 minutes.
Williams will continue to push Wayne Chism and Duke Crews, who combined for 10 points and nine rebounds in their 37 minutes.
"You look at those inside numbers, those guys have to score more,'' Pearl said. "We had 10 two-point baskets against Texas; we missed a lot of inside shots.
"I joke with the guys that it's my fault we can't make those shots from two feet. I've got to get them into an offense where you get shots from one foot.''
Pearl said a film session with Ramar Smith helped the Vols' point guard bounce back with an 11-point, six-assist, one-turnover performance.
Tennessee returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena against Louisiana-Lafayette.