KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee's young team is getting
better, and the Volunteers (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today; No. 25 AP) will find out how much this week.
With help from 19 points from Chris Lofton, Tennessee beat Coppin
State 99-65 on Sunday and started looking toward a trip to New York
for the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Vols (4-0) built a double-digit lead in the first half and
expanded it after halftime in a fast-paced, sometimes frantic,
Tennessee overcame turnover problems by taking the ball away
from the Eagles (0-3) and forcing them into bad shots. Tennessee
hassled the Eagles into 24 turnovers, many off their press and
several from five-second violations. The Vols had 22 turnovers but
12 steals and 29 assists.
"One of the things we wanted to do was handle the ball better
and we worked real hard this week at making the extra pass," coach
Bruce Pearl said. "It's preseason and we're young. When we play
better teams, you'll see we're young. ... I'm pleased with our
progress, but there is so much learning that needs to take place."
The Vols start two freshmen, including at point guard, and play
three more and a sophomore transfer who sat out last year.
The win comes during a break in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Vols
won the South Region of the tournament and head to Madison Square
Garden in New York to face Butler on Wednesday.
"We're going to find out exactly where we're at. There's no
doubt because of the competition," Pearl said.
Said Lofton: "It's important to get there, but getting there is
not the main focus. To win is our focus right now."
Tennessee's bench combined for 46 points.
"I thought Coppin State played hard for a while but obviously
the pace and the pressure once again took its toll," Pearl said.
Coppin State was led by Tywain McKee, a preseason All-MEAC
choice, with 21 points while Ruben Britt had 10. McKee continued to
play in the second half after he ran into Tennessee's 6-foot-9 Ryan
Childress and crumpled to the floor.
"Tennessee is very athletic and they shot the ball better than
I thought they would," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said. "We
stepped our game up to a level we are not accustomed to, and we
paid the price."
Coppin State has lost 29 straight non-conference games.
The Vols led by as many as 18 in the first half. Coppin State
cut the lead to 16-12, but Tennessee had a quick 7-0 run that
included a 3-pointer by Jordan Howell off an inbound pass, a dunk
by Crews and a breakaway layup by Smith.
The Vols pulled away before the Eagles trimmed it to 38-30 on
McKee's 3 with 3:09 remaining before halftime. But Tennessee
finished the first half with a 13-3 run to lead 51-33.
The Vols were up by 30 with 10 minutes left. Fan favorite Dane
Bradshaw, a 6-4 guard-turned-forward, treated the crowd to a rare
dunk off his steal in the open court.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 1-31 all-time against ranked