KNOXVILLE -- The momentum had spent most of Wednesday night in the University of Tennessee's corner.
So as soon as the pendulum appeared to be swinging the other direction early in the second half, Bruce Pearl called a quick timeout.
Whatever UT's coach said worked.
After No. 21 Memphis whittled a 25-point first-half deficit to 10 just 37 seconds into the second half, Pearl's Vols responded, burying the Tigers on the way to a 104-84 win in front of 18,864 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"I thought we won that game on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week when we practiced," Pearl said. "Two out of those three practices were outstanding."
Trailing 45-20 with 4:45 remaining in the first half, the Tigers (11-2) closed the half on a 14-4 run and scored five quick points to open the second half, prompting Pearl to call a timeout.
"[UT guard] Cameron [Tatum] and I both agreed that it was not to be too terribly negative, it was what it was," Pearl said. "Let's start this half over again. Not a lot of yelling, not a lot of panicking."
The Vols (10-4) proceeded to blow the game open with a 26-4 spurt over the next 7:22 to take a commanding 75-43 lead.
The Vols shot 61 percent and made eight 3-pointers in the second half. After shooting 30 percent from distance entering the game, UT made 12 of 21 3-pointers. Memphis, with its five true freshmen playing in their first true road game of the season, didn't make a basket for more than five minutes.
"I'm glad he called a timeout for us and got us settled down," UT junior Scotty Hopson said.
Pearl said leading up to the game the Vols would cut their rotation down to 10 players, and the shorter rotation worked on Wednesday. All 10 Vols who played prior to second-half garbage time scored, led by freshman Tobias Harris' 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Hopson (16), Melvin Goins (10) and reserve Jeronne Maymon (10) also scored in double-figures for UT, which had lost four of six games, all to unranked opponents. UT has now won all three games against ranked opponents after wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh earlier this season.
"This was important because I think our guys had lost some confidence in themselves and each other and what we do, and we got on the same page in a lot of areas tonight," Pearl said.
"[But] we can't be too terribly affected by this. This team is not mentally as strong as I need them to be, affected by wins, affected by losses."
"We've got to maintain [this]," Maymon said. "We beat ourselves sometimes by playing lackadaisical, not cutting hard, not executing our stuff."
UT outrebounded the smaller Tigers 26-17 in the first half and scored 16 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds. The team with the rebounding advantage has now won the past six meetings in the series.
"I thought that Jeronne Maymon probably had his best game," Pearl said. "He was a physical presence for us inside."
UT got a great night from its point guards. Goins made all four of his 3-pointers, and freshman backup Trae Golden had eight points and eight assists. UT had 25 assists on 36 made field goals.
The Vols will open SEC play Saturday at Arkansas without Pearl, who begins his eight-game SEC suspension.
"We're going to continue to do what we do as routinely as we possibly can," Pearl said. "Let's just go about our business. The guys will step up and the coaches will step up."
Follow Patrick Brown on Twitter by following this link.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...