And No. 15 Tennessee saw its 37-game home winning streak end with an 89-79 loss in overtime to Gonzaga before 22,326 fans inside Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night.
Tennessee (9-4) saw a double-digit first-half lead vanish, but still rallied to force overtime thanks to an acrobatic, off-balance basket from Tyler Smith.
That shot, which tied the game 73-73 with about 24 seconds remaining, was the final highlight for Tennessee.
Gonzaga, which also defeated Tennessee 83-74 in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando on Nov. 30, jumped out to a seven-point lead in overtime and never looked back.
UT never mounted a serious threat in the extra five minutes and shot just 2-of-11 from the field in overtime.
Smith, who had two points and no field goals in the first half, came alive late to finish with 17 points.
“He really battled back,” said UT coach Bruce Pearl, who lost the first game in Thompson-Boling Arena to a non-conference opponent in his four seasons. “I don’t know why he was struggling early, but he’s a great competitor. Whatever was ailing him, he was able to overcome it with his desire to compete.”
Gonzaga (9-4) snapped a three-game losing streak — and ended another significant UT streak in the process.
In addition to dealing Pearl his first non-conference loss in Knoxville, the Vols dropped back-to-back for the first time since losing to Kentucky and Ole Miss in January 2007.
The Bulldogs (9-4) got a game-high 26 points from Matt Bouldin.
Cameron Tatum led UT with a career-high 22 points.
But the Vols, much like Tatum, faded late.
Paced by the redshirt freshman’s 19 first-half points, UT ran up a 15-point lead in the first half.
“It was a good first half, but in college it’s 20-minute halves right now,” Tatum said. “It’s all about putting both those halves together as a team.”
After suffering through a nearly 10-minute stretch without a field goal, Gonzaga closed the gap to 40-33 at the half.
And after two quick Tennessee baskets, the Bulldogs unleashed four-straight 3-pointers to take their first lead since the opening minutes.
UT’s Wayne Chism had 15 points and 19 rebounds, his third double-double in the last five games.
“I’m glad the refs are letting me play now,” Chism said. “I’m really satisfied.”
Tennessee returns to the court with its SEC opener Saturday at Georgia (TV: WVLT, noon).
That game will be another test for a team whose toughness has been questioned at times early in the season.
“I thought they showed some real toughness (against Gonzaga),” Pearl said. “Obviously when you lose a couple games now, that toughness is going to be challenged once again. We’ve done all this to prepare ourselves for conference play.”
Smith OK: Pearl said after the game that Smith, who appeared to injure his left leg after a hard fall on the baseline in OT, would be OK.
Pearl said Smith would be evaluated, although the junior walked off the court on his own and returned to the game seconds after coming out.
Hopson Limited: UT freshman Scotty Hopson saw limited playing time because of illness.
Pearl said Hopson had a bout with the flu Wednesday and wasn’t sure he would be able to play at all.
Hopson, who started all but two games entering Wednesday night, played 11 minutes and scored five points coming off the bench.