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Tennessee rallies late to down American

Mar 21, 2008 - 8:25 PM BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Ticker) -- Tennessee woke up just in time to avoid an embarrassing early ouster.

JaJuan Smith scored 19 points Friday as Tennessee rallied late for a 72-57 victory over American in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The second seed in the East Regional, the Volunteers (30-4) broke things open late with a 14-4 run against the 15th-seeded Eagles (21-12), who were making their first appearance in the NCAAs after winning the Patriot League.

Leading just 50-49 with just under six minutes remaining, Smith buried a 3-pointer as Tennessee outscored American by 10 points over the next five minutes to put the game away.

"There was a great defensive team out there," Smith said. "We just weren't playing our ball, we were a little sloppy but we turned it on in the second half and made plays."

Wayne Chism added 16 points and Tyler Smith added 15 for the Volunteers. Garrison Carr kept the Eagles close with 26 points, including six 3-pointers.

"Just congratulations to American University," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "They represented themselves and the Patriot League extremely well. They made shots, particularly Carr was just spectacular."

Carr buried consecutive 3-pointers to knot the score at 40-40 with 11:22 remaining.

Tennessee regained the lead on a jumper by Tyler Smith before Chism and JaJuan Smith sank 3-pointers to give the Volunteers a 48-40 advantage with just over nine minutes left.

Chism followed with a layup to give Tennessee its largest lead of the game at 50-40 with under eight minutes left.

But the Eagles would not go quietly. Bryan Gilmore responded with back-to-back 3-pointers and Carr sank another from the arc to pull American within 50-49 with just under six minutes remaining.

"At that moment, we had the opportunity to control the game, but we made a big play and Tennessee came right back down and knocked a three down, I think it was, and took the lead," Carr said. "And while we were making our run, (they) just played like the number two seed and like a number one team in the nation and they made their runs right back and they didn't let us get a solid lead."

JaJuan Smith countered with a 3-pointer and Chism sank another from the arc less than two minutes later to give Tennessee a 57-51 lead.

Carr knocked down two free throws to get American within four points, but the Volunteers scored the next seven points to take a 63-53 lead with 98 seconds remaining.

"Well, we're disappointed with the outcome, but I certainly couldn't be any more proud of the team, of a group of young men than I am of our guys," American coach Jeff Jones said. "As they have all year long, they battled. It wasn't pretty, but we scraped and I think we pushed Tennessee pretty hard, therefore, the most part of the game."

Tennessee opened a 29-22 at the half with a 6-1 run over the final five minutes, keyed by a jumper from Tyler Smith with 1:38 left before the break.

Gilmore added 13 points for the Eagles, who shot 38 percent (21-of-56) from the floor.

Tennessee shot 50 percent (22-of-44) from the floor, but was outrebounded, 37-25, by the Eagles.