KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- When Memphis coach John Calipari watches his team play Tennessee, he sees more than just a basketball game.
"What I told the guys was it was going to be war," he said. "I watched the tape from last year, and it was a war. It was not basketball, it was hand-to-hand combat."
Tyreke Evans scored 17 points, including a free throw with one second remaining, helping the Tigers (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) to a 54-52 victory over the in-state rival Vols on Saturday. It was Memphis' 10th straight win.
The Tigers avenged last season's loss to Tennessee, when the two teams met as No. 1 vs. No. 2. The underdog Vols won 66-62 in that one, handing Memphis its only loss of the regular season and knocking it from the top of the poll.
Evans scored Memphis' final seven points, making a layup with 2:53 remaining to give the Tigers (16-3) a 53-50 lead.
He was a high school senior for last year's historic game, but Calipari made it very clear to him how important it was to win.
"It's a rivalry game and (Calipari) and their coach don't get along," Evans said. "I could see it in his face how bad he wanted to win. I think he's probably happier than us."
Wayne Chism, who scored Tennessee's last 11 points, made two free throws with 2:34 left to cut Memphis' lead to 53-52.
Both teams would go the next 2 minutes without scoring.
Evans missed a short jumper with 34 seconds left, and Bobby Maze grabbed the rebound for Tennessee (12-6). After a timeout, Tyler Smith, who scored the winning shot in last year's game, missed an off-balance jumper with about 5 seconds left.
"I was trying to make some contact. I thought I did, but at the same time, I've got to make that shot," Smith said.
After Evans missed the back end a 1-and-1, Chism grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with one second left. All the Vols could manage was a midcourt shot by Josh Tabb that fell short.
Chism led the Vols with 15 points, while Smith had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and J.P. Prince had 10 points.
It was a game of runs, with eight lead changes and seven ties. Tennessee grabbed its largest lead on a tip-in by Smith with 8:43 left in the first half to make it 19-14.
After being down by a point at halftime, Memphis slowly pulled away with the help of free throws by Taggart and a 3-point play by Evans.
The Tigers grabbed a 42-34 lead on a layup by Evans with 15:41 left.
Chism found his shot with a layup with 9:59 left and scored the next nine points to keep the Tigers within reach.
Memphis has used its stingy defense to hold opponents to 37.1 percent from the floor this season, and Tennessee could manage only 32.7 percent. The Tigers shut down the Vols' perimeter game, holding them to only two 3-point baskets.
"Our opponents will continue to collapse on us, and until we make some jump shots it will continue to happen," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.
The Tigers only shot 33.9 percent against a Vols defense that has struggled all season.
Before Saturday, Tennessee had won the last two and seven of the last nine meetings with Memphis. All but five of the teams' all-time meetings have been decided by 10 points or fewer.
"We came out with the victory. Losing three in a row would have killed me," Anderson said.
Tennessee has lost only two non-conference home games under Pearl in 30 tries. The first came Jan. 7 in a 89-79 overtime loss to Gonzaga.
"This game is a resume-building opportunity loss for us," Pearl said. "Memphis is a very good team, as was Gonzaga, and those were both resume-building opportunities."