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Tennessee advances to NIT semifinals with decisive win

Nov 15, 2006 - 5:00 AM NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- JaJuan Smith and Tennessee were too much for UNC Wilmington to handle.

Smith scored a career-high 21 points and Chris Lofton added 17 as the 24th-ranked Volunteers posted a convincing 87-75 victory over Seahawks in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

With the win, Tennessee (3-0) moved on to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, where they will face Butler on November 22.

Feeding off a stingy defense, the Volunteers forged a 16-point lead at 36-20 on a jumper by Smith with 6:25 remaining in the first half. However, the Seahawks (1-1) closed the opening 20 minutes on a 20-6 run and went into halftime down only 42-40.

"I think I am going to have to concentrate on that (scoring) more because Chris (Lofton) is one of the best shooters in the nation," Smith said. "A lot of people will be keying on Chris. I'm just trying to draw some attention on the other side of the court."

The contest remained close for the early part of the second until Smith netted seven points on an 18-2 spurt that gave Tennessee a 69-51 advantage on a free throw by Duke Crews with 9:40 to play.

Smith finished with 12 of his 21 points in the second half.

"I thought in the second half we had the offense in front of our bench and I thought we executed better," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We cut down on turnovers and had some better looks. I know we scored 87 points, but we've got to be able to score when the pace isn't frantic. We've got to be able to score when it's not just runs."

Ryan Childress scored 14 points and Crews finished with 13 for the Vols, who shot 54 percent (15-of-28) in the second half to pull away.

Daniel Fountain and Darryl Felder led a balanced UNC Wilmington offense with 15 points apiece. All five starters scored in double figures, but the Seahawks were doomed by 32 turnovers.

"This is definitely something that we are going to build upon," Felder said. "We are going to go back and watch tape and see what we did wrong and correct those things in practice."

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