KNOXVILLE -- There probably wouldn't have been a good time all season for North Carolina A&T to play the Tennessee men's basketball team.
Immediately following one of the most embarrassing games of the Bruce Pearl era was an especially bad time, though.
Sixteenth-ranked UT throttled the Aggies in the opening minutes Wednesday and cruised to a 99-78 victory in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"It was sloppy at times ... but I thought their was a little more intensity," Pearl said of his team's response to Saturday's 77-55 loss at Southern California. "We need to continue to ratchet it up, but you don't turn somebody over 34 times and get 21 steals without bringing some more energy."
Senior forward Tyler Smith and freshman forward Kenny Hall led the Vols with 16 points apiece, while freshman guard Skylar McBee's hot shooting start finished with 12 points. Sophomore guard Scotty Hopson and senior guard J.P. Prince scored 10 points each.
Vols senior forward Wayne Chism played just eight minutes -- all in the first half -- because from lingering pelvis bruise.
"He tried to go, but he was very limited in his ability to move," Pearl said. "We didn't want to take any chances. Obviously we've got to get him back for next week."
North Carolina A&T missed its first 15 shots from the floor and committed 12 turnovers during that stretch against the irritated Vols -- who took a 27-3 lead in the first eight minutes before settling into an OK performance against a completely overmatched opponent.
UT (9-2) led 93-57 in the final six minutes before Pearl started gradually rotating in the walk-ons, and the Aggies (4-8) promptly made the score look more respectable with a 15-0 run.
"Tennessee played great the first 15 minutes," Aggies coach Jerry Eaves said. "Their intensity was super, they put their hands on the ball, they were aggressive and they played great.
"I am not mad at my guys at all. We were able to score 78 points, we kept playing, and we kept our heads up against a very good team in a hostile situation. They got out of it what they needed for 15 minutes with their press ... and we got what we needed out of it."
Dwane Joshua scored a game-high 20 points off the bench for A&T, and undersized center Thomas Coleman added 16. Three 3s in the final five minutes helped the trigger-happy Aggies finish 10-for-33 from behind the arc.
UT went the other way, shooting decently from long range in the opening minutes before plummeting to a 5-for-26 finish.
Pearl said simply, "3-point shooting continues to be a concern."
"We're a good 3-point shooting team but ... I don't know ... it's just a mental thing," Woolridge said. "Sometimes we're on, and sometimes we're off. We're just not as consistent as we need to be. If we're open, we've got to make those shots like we know we can."
The Vols will come back from Christmas break to face the toughest part of their non-conference schedule -- a Dec. 31 game at Memphis before home games against Charlotte and top-ranked Kansas. The Southeastern Conference schedule starts Jan. 14 against Auburn.
"I'm happy to be going home for Christmas, but even though we're getting away from basketball for a few days, I'm not going to forget what we've got coming up," Hall said. "I'm still planning on keeping my cardio up and getting some shots and stuff like that, so I'm not too sluggish when I come back -- if at all."
That would be wise, considering Pearl promised the team will "be training even harder when we get back" from the three-day break.
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