Knoxville, TN (Sports Network) - Tyler Smith scored 15 points and added five steals as seventh-ranked Tennessee overcame a lackluster effort to beat Prairie View A&M, 89-75, in the Legends Classic.
Chris Lofton added 14 points for the Volunteers (3-0), who have now won 19 straight home games and also improved to a perfect 18-0 against non-conference opponents at Thompson-Boling Arena under head coach Bruce Pearl. Ramar Smith chipped in with 10 points.
"We took the lead at the start of the second half, and that was a key," Pearl said. "We had overwhelming talent that allowed us to be just good enough to win this game. This is not criticism; it is just a fact. Sometimes you have these nights."
Aaron Smith had a game-high 21 points for the Panthers (1-2), who were coming off an 88-59 blowout victory over Division III Schreiner on Wednesday. Brian Ezeh finished with 15 points and Derek Johnson had 10 but also turned the ball over seven times.
The Panthers played very well and took a slim 36-35 lead into intermission but the Vols responded and opened the final frame with a 13-5 run to seize control. Wayne Chism capped the burst with a three to give Tennessee a 48-41 edge with 16:46 left in the game.
"We were happy to be up at the half, but we knew it was a 40-minute game," Prairie View coach Byron Rimm II said. "We were not just happy to be here, though. We were determined to win, to cause one of the biggest upsets in the country."
The Vols kept slowly pulling away from there. Lofton's three, with 6:31 remaining, put Tennessee on top, 77-65.
The Panthers failed to make much headway the rest of the way. Ezeh's jumper brought Prairie View to within 10, 85-87, with 1:37 on the clock. But, Tyler Smith answered with 1-of-2 from the line and a jumper on the subsequent trip down the floor to seal things.
This game marked the first-ever meeting between Prairie View and Tennessee on the hardwood...The Panthers were 7-of-10 from long range in the second half but were outscored 54-39...Prairie View had 30 turnovers in the game.
11/16 23:59:08 ET