for this game

Tennessee holds off another collapse against Ohio State

Jan 20, 2008 - 2:24 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- JaJuan Smith and Tennessee were just a basket away from coughing up another big lead to Ohio State.

Smith scored 15 points and Chris Lofton added 13 as the seventh-ranked Volunteers survived a handful of good looks by the Buckeyes to hold on for a 74-69 victory on Saturday.

Building a 66-54 lead with 5:45 remaining on the strength of a 23-5 run, Tennessee saw the cushion shrink to just 72-69 following a layup by Othello Hunter with 1:52 left.

However, Ohio State could get no closer despite freshman Kosta Koufos and Jon Diebler getting a trio of solid attempts from 3-point range.

"We were just trying to get Jamar Butler free to penetrate or shoot it himself down the stretch," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "Kosta Koufos obviously was an option for the throw-back. With 22.6 left, I was fine with the looks we got. I thought we got a couple of decent looks in that situation.

"Having no timeouts was tough - we were calling it on the fly. When they got the big rebound with one second on the shot clock with just over a minute to go, that one got us a little bit."

Overall, the Buckeyes missed their final five shots from the field and Tyler Smith converted two free throws with 12 seconds to play as the Volunteers squeaked one out.

"Again, we held serve," said Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, whose team is 5-0 in games decided by six points or less. "Tuesday will be a big opportunity for us. Kentucky will not lose many games at Rupp Arena, but we need that kind of win on the road."

It was the 26th consecutive home win for Tennessee, tying the school's third-longest streak.

Tyler Smith and Ramar Smith finished with 12 points apiece for Tennessee (16-1), which beat Ohio State for the first time in five all-time meetings.

One of those previous losses was a heartbreaker for the Vols, who blew a 17-point halftime lead en route to an 85-84 loss in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament last year. The Buckeyes would go on to lose to defending champion Florida in the national title game.

Entering the matchup on a 10-game winning streak, Tennessee held a 33-28 advantage at the half before watching Ohio State pull ahead, 46-39, as Hunter's layup capped a 9-0 run.

"Ohio State played very very well," Pearl said. "The Buckeyes are very talented, maybe short one more body. Their zone was effective. We got the ball where we wanted it, but we did not get the baskets."

Tyler Smith scored five points on a 12-2 run that put the Vols ahead, 54-49, with 11:19 remaining. That spurt continued to grow, with Ramar Smith making consecutive layups and JaJuan Smith added a 3-pointer before J.P. Prince's layup forged the 12-point lead.

"Two things we tried to do is to get the ball to Ramar Smith, so he could drive, and also to get the ball to Tyler Smith," Pearl said. "Ramar Smith was very excited about playing against Ohio State."

Ramar Smith also had six rebounds and six assists and Tyler Smith grabbed seven boards for the Vols, who finished with just a 41-39 deficit in rebounding.

Lofton went 4-of-10 on 3-pointers, increasing his career total to 362. The senior needs four more to tie the SEC record held by Pat Bradley of Arkansas.

Freshman Evan Turner scored 21 points and Hunter added 17 and 14 rebounds for the Buckeyes (12-6), who dropped their third straight game.

"You want to say you are proud of the guys, which I am, but we did not get what we came for," Matta said. "These guys have to understand that to come on the road and play a good second half is not OK."

Koufos had 13 points, David Lighty 10 and Butler added eight and seven assists for Ohio State, which shot 2-of-20 on 3-pointers.

Lately, Tennessee has down an outstanding job limiting opponents to productive efforts from the arc. The Vols' last three opponents have combined to shot 16 percent (10-of-62) from long range.