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UConn defeats Tennessee in Pearl's return to the sidelines

Jan 23, 2011 - 12:12 AM Hartford, CT (Sports Network) - Jeremy Lamb and Kemba Walker both scored 16 points, leading eighth-ranked Connecticut to a 72-61 win over Tennessee in Bruce Pearl's brief return to the Volunteers' bench.

Alex Oriakhi added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (16-2), who have won five in a row. Roscoe Smith also netted 12 points in a balanced attack that allowed UConn to finish its non-conference schedule with a 12-0 mark.

"Out of the 18 games played, it was far and away the best team effort against a quality opponent," said Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun. "I don't think it's even close."

Melvin Goins had 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists for the Vols (12-7), who had won their last two.

Pearl was suspended for Tennessee's first eight SEC games of the season, but because Saturday's matchup was a non-conference game, the head coach was allowed to return. He will miss the Vols' next four conference games to finish the suspension.

UConn led by one at halftime and was in position to take control in the second half, but couldn't pull away as the Vols stayed in the game. Tennessee was still within a point when Goins hit a jumper with 8:35 left, making it a 52-51 contest.

But the Huskies dominated down the stretch to pull out the win. Smith drained a three at the other end to start a seven-point burst, while Charles Okwandu and Oriakhi netted baskets after Vols turnovers to give UConn a 59-51 lead with 6:35 to play.

A few minutes later, the Huskies forced another turnover and capitalized with an Oriakhi dunk, extending the advantage to 64-54.

UConn's defense continued to stifle Tennessee on the ensuing possession -- Smith blocked two shots before Scotty Hopson missed a jumper. Shabazz Napier grabbed the defensive rebound before Lamb made a jumper at the other end.

The Vols scored the next five points to reduce their deficit to seven, and the game remained that way heading into the final minute, forcing Tennessee to foul. Walker, Napier, and Lamb each sank two free throws to secure the win.

"We're disappointed," Pearl said. "We have to play really well to beat UConn at UConn. We did some good things, but turning the ball over was key. Some of that was UConn. Some of that was us."

Tennessee led for most of the first half and held a 24-17 lead when Goins made a three with 6:04 left. But UConn used a seven-point burst to tie the game, and Walker's three at the buzzer put the Huskies up 32-31 at the break.

Game Notes

Hopson scored 13 points for Tennessee, while Tobias Harris added 10...UConn scored 24 points off 12 Tennessee turnovers, while the Vols scored 14 points off 12 Huskies turnovers...The Huskies made 48 percent of their shots, and held a 36-31 rebounding edge.