Tigers Struggle in Road Loss to Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Scotty Hopson scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half as Tennessee routed LSU 75-53 on Wednesday night.
The Volunteers (13-7, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) never trailed against the Tigers. They used an 11-2 run to pull away early, and back-to-back 3s by Cameron Tatum from the same spot on the wing gave them a 22-10 lead with 10:42 in the first half.
A 3-pointer by Matt Derenbecker and a pair of free throws from Malcolm White helped LSU cut Tennessee's margin to 31-24 with 3:35 in the first half, but it was as close as the Tigers (10-10, 2-3) would get.
Tatum added 13 points and Melvin Goins added 11. Tobias Harris scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Volunteers, who scored 18 points off 12 LSU turnovers and scored 34 points in the paint.
Vols coach Bruce Pearl, who is in the middle of an eight-game suspension from SEC games, had grown weary of his team's inconsistent play and angrily told his players to play tougher or face not playing at all.
Pearl had been especially frustrated with Hopson after a lackluster performance in Saturday's 72-61 loss at No. 5 Connecticut. Pearl said it was Hopson's inconsistent play that had caused Tennessee to play inconsistently.
Hopson showed a renewed sense of toughness early. He hit six of Tennessee's first nine points off a dunk, a fast-break jumper and an underhanded layup and finished 9 of 14 with three 3s.
Tennessee still struggled with consistency early but moved the ball well against LSU's zone defense and shot 48.5 percent in the first half, compared to 30 percent shooting by the Tigers, who are now averaging 30.9 percent shooting in their past three games.
LSU struggled to control the ball, committing six first-half turnovers that led to 10 Tennessee points. The Vols only had two turnovers in the first half, neither of which led to a Tigers' field goal.
Harris, who leads Tennessee in SEC play with an average of 17.3 points, didn't score until 3:11 to go in the first half, but had six points before halftime to help the Volunteers take a 43-27 margin at the break.
The Tigers played their fifth game in a row without leading scorer Ralston Turner, who suffered a stress reaction in his right foot against Virginia on Jan. 2. Turner is averaging 13.7 points in 15 games this season.
Derenbecker, who is averaging 11.3 points in relief of Turner, led LSU with 13 points. Eddie Ludwig scored 12 points off the bench.
After splitting wins with the Tigers for four seasons, the Vols have now won three straight and lead the all-time series 59-43.
LSU HEAD COACH TRENT JOHNSON: "We had some breakdowns right before the half. We were within striking distance, but when you've got a team as talented, skilled, and on the edge like they were from previous performance, you can't let them open a cushion. What I am talking about is we had two guys leaking out and I think they had two rebound putbacks on loose balls. Then we broke down on the offensive glass and you're talking about five possessions that led to 15 points right before the half.
"When they are like that, they are good. They shoot it well. It had nothing to do with what we were doing or couldn't do. They were in a rhythm and they were relaxed. We couldn't put any pressure on them - man or zone.
"We just need to get some guys healthy. It will be nice to have Ralston Turner back in the fold. Ralston is our best player and we are struggling to shoot the ball, struggling to score right now. So that would be a positive thing.
"There have been three teams - the last two losses to Kentucky and Ole Miss, or tonight against Tennessee - they are better than we are."