NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl wants his
Volunteers to pressure and chase opponents into sloppy
mistakes. He found out Monday night that can be contagious for his
Chris Lofton scored 30 points, and Tennessee (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today; No. 25 AP) survived a clumsy
game to beat Fordham 78-71 in the opening round of the NIT Season
Not exactly what Pearl wanted to see.
"I'm very happy with the win. We beat a good basketball team,"
Pearl said. "The quality of play may have set the game back a few
years. I don't think Naismith intended for us to turn the ball over
The Vols (2-0) will play UNC Wilmington, an 88-83 winner over
Belmont, in the second round of the Nashville Regional on Tuesday
night for the chance to advance to the semifinals in New York.
Fordham (1-1) will play Belmont in the consolation game.
Tennessee is lucky Fordham had as much trouble holding onto the
ball as the Vols did. The Vols had as many turnovers (23) with more
than 11 minutes left in the second half as they ever had last
season, Pearl's first, and finished with 26.
"It's so early on in the season, and I think all the teams are
rusty," Fordham coach Dereck Whittenburg said.
The teams also combined for 51 personal fouls in a game that
finished with one player fouling out and 11 more in serious danger
of doing just that.
Lofton was one of those, picking up his third foul late in the
first half after he already had scored 19 points. And the junior
guard was the one player Whittenburg tried most to stop.
"We let the one guy we tried to not let beat us beat us,"
Lofton had only six points in Tennessee's season-opening win. He
finished 9-of-16 from the field, including 5-of-10 on 3s, and was
7-of-8 at the free throw line.
"I'm just trying to do whatever the team needed me to do. The
main focus is trying to get the win," Lofton said. "It wasn't
really pretty tonight. The bottom line is we won. We're moving
Tennessee had what little homecourt advantage was available in
an arena 190 miles west of its campus with most of the crowd of
3,186 wearing orange. It was a welcome sight to a team with only
two starters back from last season's NCAA tournament squad and two
"It was good to see all those orange shirts out there I'll tell
you that," Vols freshman Duke Crews said.
Fordham tried to play its way back into the game midway through
the second half.
The Vols led by as many as 14 points with 7:51 left. Fordham
pulled within 75-71 on a dunk by Marcus Stout with 1:31 left to cap
a 7-0 spurt, but Tennessee went 3-of-4 from the free throw line in
the final minute.
"Nobody expected us to come here and do anything," Stout said.
"I am just happy with my team that we fought."
Crews added 11 points for Tennessee.
Brenton Butler led Fordham, which had 29 turnovers, with 20
points, and Stout finished with 16.
Whittenburg liked the uptempo pace as the Vols tried to push the
ball and pressure the Rams on defense. He credited Tennessee with
denying the Rams on their inbound passes but said his players
mishandled the ball.
"Once we got open, we just made careless passes," he said.
Tennessee led by 12 points three times in the first half -- the
last 40-28 at halftime. But the Vols blew the first lead as Fordham
went up 26-25 on a jumper by Butler with 7:04 to go.
Each team was sloppy from the start and combined for 38
turnovers and 24 personal fouls in the first half. Lofton picked up
his third foul late in the first half after scoring 19 points,
including all 12 in a 12-3 run in pushing the Vols' lead to 39-27
with 2:13 to go.
Stout lost a ball heading toward his own basket in the opening
minutes. Tennessee was called for charges on consecutive
possessions, the first by Lofton for his second foul.