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T. Smith's late layup gives Mississippi its first loss

Jan 10, 2008 - 5:44 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Tyler Smith helped Tennessee end Mississippi's surprising unbeaten run.

Smith scored 21 points, including the game-winning layup with 4.2 seconds remaining, to lift the ninth-ranked Volunteers to an exciting 85-83 victory over No. 15 Mississippi in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams on Wednesday.

The loss ended the best start in school history for Mississippi (13-1, 0-1 SEC West), which had never won more than 11 straight games to start a season. The Rebels were also picked to finish last in the West Division.

"There is a reason Ole Miss came in here undefeated," Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl said. "I did not expect Ole Miss to dominate physically as much as they did. The crowd inspired us. People wanting tickets were turned away this afternoon. The building looked phenomenal."

However, it wasn't easy for Tennessee (13-1, 1-0 East), which led by as many as 12 points midway through the second half before Mississippi came storming back.

The Rebels went on a 23-7 run that spanned almost nine minutes to take an 83-79 advantage with 2:23 remaining. David Huertas' 3-pointer gave Mississippi its second lead of the second half and Eniel Polynice finished the run with a layup in transition.

"Let me tell you something about this group, we have kind of played under the radar for some time, but this group, they are special men," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. "They are not knocked out easily. They kept coming back and coming back, which I think speaks to the makeup of this team."

But the Volunteers answered to tie the game on back-to-back possessions when Wayne Chism and Smith scored layups, making it an 83-83 game with 1:20 left.

After the Rebels missed a series of close shots, Kenny Williams was fouled and missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line, giving the Volunteers the ball with 32 seconds to play.

"I told the group when we were up four with about two minutes to go, they were a little bit stunned," Kennedy said. "It was almost like a heavyweight fight. They had punched us hard, and we did not fall, and I thought they got a little bit fatigued.

"And then it just came down to a stop here and a stop there, making a free throw. We just were not able to finish the game."

Tennessee used most of the game clock before Smith got the ball in the post and made an up-and-under move, scoring the final hoop with his left hand. Chris Warren's heave from just inside halfcourt at the buzzer was off the mark, giving the Volunteers the win.

"Tyler Smith is one of the most productive players in college basketball," Pearl said. "He's been spending time in the gym working on his 3-point shots. At the end, he did what we wanted him to do, stick it up their noses."

Warren scored 24 points and Dwayne Curtis had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Rebels, who outrebounded the Volunteers, 42-31.

JaJuan Smith netted 21 points for the Volunteers, who beat the Rebels for the ninth straight time in Knoxville.

"I thought it was a war," Kennedy said. "We are disappointed obviously, hoping we can learn something and do better as a group."

Tennessee led by one point at the half before making its first four 3-pointers after intermission en route to taking a 59-48 lead with 15:17 to play. Tyler Smith's free throw gave the Vols their largest lead at 72-60 with 11:02 remaining.

The Volunteers had made 11 of their first 16 3-pointers, but converted just one of their last 10 attempts from the arc over the game's final 15 minutes.

The win also extended Tennessee's home winning streak to 24 games.