KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Tennessee thought about last season. Then the Volunteers put it behind them and gained some small revenge on Ohio State.
The sixth-ranked Vols beat the Buckeyes 74-69 on Saturday, 10 months after the NCAA tournament regional semifinal in San Antonio which Ohio State won 85-84.
“You try to get it out of your mind, but that’s all you can really think about because you remember they ruined your summer. They ruined your season,” Tennessee guard Chris Lofton said.
Tyler Smith, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, made two free throws with 11 seconds left to seal the win for Tennessee (16-1).
JaJuan Smith scored 15 points, Lofton added 13 and Ramar Smith had 12 for the Vols, who are off to only their second 16-1 start ever.
Before Evan Turner’s foul sent Tyler Smith to the line, Jon Diebler missed two 3-point shots that would have tied the game, with Tyler Smith rebounding the second. Jamar Butler and Kosta Koufos both missed shots after Smith’s free throws.
“We had Jon Diebler open. He’s one of the best 3-point shooters any of us have ever seen. He didn’t hit, but he’ll come back tomorrow and hit those nine times out of 10,” Turner said.
The Buckeyes (12-6) led 46-39 on a jumper by Othello Hunter with 15:55 left, capping a 16-6 run. But Ohio State went cold as Tennessee took off on a 27-6 run.
“Tennessee is a team of runs. They can put a run on you like the drop of a hat,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
Ohio State again chipped away at Tennessee’s lead, knocking it down to 72-69 with 1:57 to go on a layup by Hunter.
Turner had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes, while Hunter had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Koufos added 13 points and David Lighty had 10 points.
The teams traded baskets early, but Tennessee took off with a 10-2 run that ended on a 3-pointer by Lofton that put the Vols up 16-6 with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Tennessee’s shooting cooled for about 3 minutes while Ohio State used free throws to trim the lead. Turner’s made it 27-26 with 2:34 left in the half before Tennessee bolstered its lead late.
It was the teams’ third meeting in just over a year. Ohio State beat Tennessee 68-66 in Columbus on Jan. 13, 2007.
Tennessee’s bench outscored Ohio State’s 26-0. The Buckeyes struggled to control the ball, and the Vols scored 20 points off turnovers compared to Ohio State’s five.
“The Buckeyes are very talented, maybe short one more body,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “Ohio State has the size players and the quality players that you see when you play the good teams.”
Ohio State shot only 30.8 percent in the first half and missed all seven 3-point attempts. The Buckeyes hit 48.6 percent in the second half, but went only 2-for-13 from behind the arc.
Tennessee struggled with free throws, making only 47.1 percent, but went 8-for-23 from 3-point range.
The Vols are on an 11-game winning streak, including recent wins over No. 16 Vanderbilt and No. 18 Mississippi. Ohio State has dropped three straight with losses to No. 11 Michigan State and Purdue.
“I think (the Vols) are still going to hit their stride,” Matta said. “Them and (North) Carolina are probably the two best teams we’re going to play this year.”