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Smith leads Tennessee to rout of Chattanooga

Nov 16, 2008 - 6:01 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- With Tennessee looking for someone to pick up the scoring slack, Tyler Smith was happy to oblige.

Smith scored 13 of his 21 points in the first half as the 13th-ranked Volunteers started strong en route to an impressive, season-opening 114-75 victory over Chattanooga on Saturday.

Due to the departures of Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, Tennessee is short nearly 30 points from last year's squad, which won 31 games and reached a regional final of the NCAA Tournament.

Tyler Smith, the top returning candidate to lead the Volunteers offensively, lived up to his preseason billing as the favorite to win the Southeastern Conference's Player of the Year, shooting 8-of-13 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers.

Smith also had five assists, grabbed four rebounds and collected three steals.

Outside of Smith, the Vols got a big boost from their freshmen, as Cameron Tatum scored 19 points and Scotty Hopson added 17.

Hopson connected on three 3-pointers, including one that capped a 17-2 run that gave Tennessee a 24-10 lead with 12:10 left in the first half.

"Making that big shot calmed me down,'' Hopson told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The Kentucky native finished 7-of-11 from the floor.

Point guard Bobby Maze also impressive in his debut with the Volunteers, finishing with 12 points and 10 assists. Maze was signed out of the junior college ranks after previous point guard Ramar Smith was dismissed in the offseason for a violation of team rules.

The 6-2 guard also looked impressive on the defensive end, an area that has been lacking for the team in recent years.

"Bobby Maze has been really consistent," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "I have been most impressed with his on-the-ball defense. I was just impressed tonight because our weakness is our defense, and they gave a great effort."

Behind Maze, the Vols finished with a school-record 32 assists, improving the previous record vs. Tennessee Tech on November 25, 1988 by one.

"When everybody does their job, it looks that pretty,'' Tennessee junior J.P. Prince told the News Sentinel.

Prince end up with 14 points and five assists in 17 minutes.

Overall, Tennessee went 43-of-75 (57 percent) from the field with 11 3-pointers en route to its 33rd straight victory at home, tying a school record.

"We were banking on them missing a few shots," Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. "Cameron Tatum is a high-level player. Renaldo Woolridge is a high-level player. Scotty Hopson can score the ball. Tyler Smith is making two out of three shots.

"They are as talented - I do not know if I can put them with the Florida team we played that was the national champion - but they are a heck of a lot deeper."

Stephen McDowell scored 20 points for Chattanooga, which fell to 5-31 against its in-state rival.