Tennessee hangs on to beat UNC Asheville 72-68UNC Asheville's Jeremy Atkinson defends Tennessee's Josh Richardson during an NCAA college basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/News Sentinel, Saul Young)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Renaldo Woolridge and Cameron Tatum scored 17 points each as Tennessee overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat UNC Asheville 72-68 on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs led by 10 early in the second half and were ahead 51-42 with 14:34 to play when they went cold from the floor. UNC Asheville scored on free throws but had no field goals over the next 9:08.
The Volunteers came alive during the stretch, and Tatum sandwiched a pair of 3s around a long-range bucket by Skylar McBee. The third 3-pointer put Tennessee ahead 56-55 with 7:44 to play, its first lead since the game's opening basket. Another 3 by Tatum with 5:07 to play put the Volunteers ahead for good, and Tennessee hit seven free throws down the stretch to hang on.
J.P. Primm led UNC Asheville (6-5) with 25 points. Jeremy Atkinson scored 15 points, and Chris Stephenson added 10.
Jeronne Maymon had 13 rebounds and 10 points and Kenny Hall scored 12 points for Tennessee (4-6), which ended a four-game losing streak. Woolridge, who came off the bench to play 23 minutes, bested his previous career high of 14 points, which he achieved against Kansas on Jan. 10, 2010.
Tennessee has won all eight meetings with UNC Asheville, the previous six victories coming by double-digit margins. Their most recent meeting saw the Volunteers set a school record for points in a game with a 124-49 victory on Nov. 17, 2009, to mark the Bulldogs' worst defeat in program history.
This time, the Volunteers entered the game having lost six of their last seven, as Asheville - which was picked in the preseason to repeat as Big South champions - brought a four-game winning streak to town.
After Tennessee grabbed the first points of the game, UNC Asheville scored five of the next six baskets to take a quick eight-point lead. The Volunteers dug out of several holes before halftime, but the Bulldogs had an answer each time thanks to their 52 percent shooting in the first half.
Woolridge hit a 3-pointer for the Volunteers, and Dwight Miller stole the ball from Matt Dickey and dished it to Wes Washpun, who got a layup on the break. After a turnover by UNC Asheville, Woolridge hit a layup with 11:15 in the first half to cut the Bulldogs' margin to 15-14.
UNC Asheville had a fast answer with a 3-pointer by Atkinson in front of Tennessee's bench to launch a 10-3 run. A pair of free throws by Jon Nwannunu pushed the Bulldogs' lead to 28-17, their largest margin of the first half.
The Volunteers answered with an 11-2 run and twice cut UNC Asheville's lead to a point inside the final 2 minutes of the first half, but Atkinson rebounded a missed 3 by Primm and hit a layup 5 seconds before halftime. That gave the Bulldogs a 35-32 lead at the break.