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T. Smith leads late charge as Tennessee tops Xavier

Dec 23, 2007 - 1:22 AM CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- Apparently, Tyler Smith and Tennessee did not need their coach's encouragement on defense.

Smith scored six of his 12 points in a decisive late run as the 12th-ranked Volunteers captured an 82-75 victory over No. 24 Xavier on Saturday.

With leading scorer Chris Lofton stuck in a shooting slump, Tennessee (11-1) appeared destined for their second loss of the season after coach Bruce Pearl was whistled for a technical foul with just under five minutes remaining.

With the Vols down, 71-67, and the Muskeeters in possession, Pearl stepped past the line of the coach's box as he was trying to inspire his defense for a stop.

Xavier, which also received a technical when coach Sean Miller did the same thing over seven minutes earlier, went ahead, 73-67, after Stanley Burrell made both free throws.

Tennessee was still down 73-69 with just over 3 1/2 minutes left when Lofton split two free throws. Ramar Smith added a dunk moments later to make it a one-point game before the Vols turned up the pressure.

"In the last four minutes, they were the meaner, tougher, more relentless, nastier team, and they won the game," Xavier coach Sean Miller said. "They made three or four unbelievable hustle plays in the last four minutes that turned the game to their favor."

Attempting to capture their 15th straight game at the Cintas Center, the Musketeers were inbounding the ball with under 2 1/2 minutes to play when B.J. Raymond took a pass and attempted to get the ball to point guard Drew Lavender to set the offense.

However, Raymond's flip was sloppy and Tyler Smith swept in and stole the ball, raced down the court for a layup and a 74-73 lead with 2:17 left.

Lavender turned over the ball on Xavier's next possession on a handoff, with Tyler Smith racing down the court to dive on a loose ball. Lofton then threw up an ill-advised 3-pointer, but Tyler Smith got the offensive rebound and scored to make it 76-73.

After Raymond missed a jumper, Wayne Chism hit a layup for a 9-0 run that supplied the Vols with a 78-73 advantage with 46 seconds to play.

Tyler Smith and Jordan Howell both made two free throws in the closing moments to cap a 13-1 run for Tennessee, which improved to 10-4 in the all-time series.

The reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Lofton finished with nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.

J.P. Prince picked up Lofton with a career-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting off the bench. A transfer from Arizona, the 6-7 sophomore scored 21 points in his first two games since becoming eligible.

Burrell had 18 points for the Musketeers (8-3), who dropped their second straight game despite going 89 percent (24-of-27) on free throws.

Derrick Brown had 12 points and 10 rebounds and C.J. Anderson scored 12 for Xavier, which finished with 21 turnovers, leading to 29 points for Tennessee.

Lofton was on the mark early, making his first two shots, including a three-point play for a 9-2 lead just over two minutes in. However, he missed his next seven shots before picking up a long rebound on defense and taking it for a layup for a 58-56 lead midway through the second half.

Despite the struggles of the newly crowned 3-pointer leader, the Vols were able to open up a 23-14 lead on two free throws by JaJuan Smith with 8:41 remaining in the first half.

Although Xavier tied the score at 34-34 on the strength of a 12-4 run, Chism hit a 3-pointer and Ryan Childress added a layup in the closing seconds as Tennessee held a 39-36 lead at the break.

Burrell had five points as the Musketeers opened the second half on a 9-2 run to go ahead, 45-41, with less than three minutes expired.

Xavier did have a five-point lead with 12:39 remaining after a 3-pointer by Burrell, but Tennessee answered back with an 11-2 run. It was tight the rest of the way before the Vols put together their decisive run.