for this game

Smith, Tennessee fend off Middle Tennessee State

Nov 22, 2008 - 6:33 AM MURFREESBORO, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Tennessee had a tougher test than expected, but continued its dominance against opponents from the "Volunteer State" on Friday.

Tyler Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds as No. 13 Tennessee defeated its third straight intra-state rival, posting a 76-66 victory over Middle Tennessee State.

Bobby Maze scored 12 points and freshman Scotty Hopson added 10 for the Volunteers (3-0), who recorded victories against Tennessee-Chattanooga and Tennessee-Martin to open the season. It was their seventh straight win over the Blue Raiders.

"We've played three games so far and each game was completely different," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We played a tougher opponent in a different environment tonight. We took 47 shots, only eight of those were (3-pointers) and we just grinded it out. This was anybody's ballgame."

Middle Tennessee State hung tough for the opening 23 minutes of the contest, which was tied with 17:02 remaining.

That's when the Volunteers took control, using a 10-0 run to take a 48-38 lead with 14:02 play, and Tennessee never trailed again.

"We had a great opportunity, but we shot poorly from the free-throw line," Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis said. "In the second half we had our chances but they made their free throws on the road and we couldn't get stops when we needed to. I was proud of our effort but it was disappointing to miss an opportunity like that."

The Blue Raiders continued to battle but could not get any closer than six as the Volunteers hung on down the stretch.

"These games will help us play on the road," Pearl said. "You don't go on the road at a top-20 (team) right off the bat. Teams like this help us down later on during the season. It's good for my basketball team and it's great for basketball in the state of Tennessee."

Tennessee shot 55 percent (26-of-47) from the floor but surprisingly just 4-of-8 from the arc. The Volunteers had attempted 23 3-pointers in their first two games after averaging 24.3 shots from the arc last season.

Smith shot 6-of-11 from the floor and the double-double was the seventh of his Tennessee career.

Trailing by one point late in the first half, the Volunteers appeared to take control when Hopson capped a 10-0 run with back-to-back 3-pointers, giving Tennessee a 35-26 lead with 2:43 left before the break.

Middle Tennessee State answered as Kevin Kanaskie hit consecutive shots from the arc and the Blue Raiders trailed, 36-32, at the intermission.

Demetrius Green scored 17 points to lead the Blue Raiders (2-1), who were outrebounded 38-22.

"They wore us out on the boards," Davis said. "We couldn't get any second-chance opportunities. That was the third straight game (leading scorer) Desmond Yates didn't have an offensive rebound. He has to do better than that if we're going to beat quality teams."