The Tennessee men's basketball team rang in the new year with a resounding victory over rival Memphis on Wednesday night.
The Vols scored the most lopsided victory over the Tigers in the Bruce Pearl era, winning 104-84 before a crowd of 18,864 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"We needed that,'' Pearl said. "I thought the guys were physical, and I thought they were aggressive.
"This was important, because I think our guys had lost some confidence in themselves and what we do.''
UT, which had lost four of its past six games entering the contest, took out its frustrations on 21st-ranked Memphis early and often, charging out to a 25-point lead before coasting to a 49-34 halftime advantage.
The Vols (10-4) hit their first three 3-point shot attempts en route to a 12-of-21 shooting performance beyond the arc.
"We hunted our shots really well,'' said Pearl, whose team ranked last in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage entering the game. "Melvin (Goins) started off with a bang, he stepped into his shot really well, and Scotty (Hopson) had some great shots.
"But I think the shots we took, they weren't 'huh' shots . . . they were shots you've seen us take before.''
Memphis (11-3) sagged back some, but with UT firing on all cylinders from outside, the Tigers reverted to their pressing ways.
"Memphis was in a Catch-22; they play better fast, but so do we,'' Pearl said. "I thought that our depth was a real factor tonight.''
The Vols bench out-scored Memphis 43-34, as Pearl trotted out a new 10-man rotation.
The starting lineup remained the same, while Trae Golden was the backup shooting guard, Josh Bone the backup wing, Jeronne Maymon the backup four and John Fields was at the five.
Tennessee led by as many as 36 points with just over five minutes left before clearing the bench with mass substitutions.
Tobias Harris led four UT players who scored in double figures with 17 points and had 13 rebounds, Hopson scored 16, Goins had 15 and Maymon had 10.
Will Coleman scored 17 points to lead the Tigers, Will Barton had 14 and Joe Jackson had 11.
Memphis opened the second half with a 5-0 run to close to 49-39 when Pearl called timeout at the 19:23 mark.
"I thought, OK, let's start this half over again,'' Pearl said. "Not a lot of yelling, not a lot of panicking.''
The Vols responded by going on a 26-4 run, erasing any doubts about the outcome when Hopson hit a trey with 11:23 left to make it 75-43.
Tennessee returns to action at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Arkansas (10-3) in both teams' SEC opener. The Razorbacks are 9-1 at home this season.
It will be the first game of eight league contests that Pearl will be serving a suspension handed down by SEC commissioner Mike Slive in November.
"We're not going to get too excited about this (Memphis win),'' Pearl said. "We've got to keep it in perspective and understand what the intensity of that conference game will be like.''