KNOXVILLE - A Saturday that honored University of Tennessee men's basketball history finished with a promising outlook for the immediate future.
The Volunteers stayed tied atop the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division standings with a 69-50 victory over Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena.
With most of the program's 20-man "All-Century" team in attendance - all in bright orange sport coats - UT junior Tyler Smith continued stating his case to make the next revised list.
Smith rediscovered his preseason SEC player of the year form, scoring a career-high 30 points. He was 10-for-13 from the field, 3-for-4 from the 3-point line and 7-for-8 on free throws.
Former versatile Vol Dane Bradshaw - an All-Century team member - watched every minute from the first row and laughingly called Smith's timing "fitting."
"He played with great efficiency and great energy," UT coach Bruce Pearl said of Smith. "That's the way All-Americans are supposed to play."
Smith said he felt like NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Lebron James at Madison Square Garden. Both future Hall of Famers recently turned in memorably prolific performances in New York's storied arena.
"I don't want you to say I'm comparing myself to those guys ... but hitting all those shots, that's how I felt," Smith said. "It just felt like everything could go in for me.
"When I woke up this morning, it just felt like a good day. I don't know if it was because it was Valentine's Day, or my mom was here, or I don't know. It just felt good."
Smith flashed a wide smile while asking reporters to tell new UT football coach Lane Kiffin he could have starred in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings didn't feel like joking.
"I thought we, for the first time (this season), did not fight like we normally fight, and that was disappointing," Stallings said. "Tyler Smith was great, and we did not have an answer for him."
No other Vol scored in double figures, but junior wing J.P. Prince had eight points, seven assists, a game-high 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots.
"You can see the value he has on our team," Pearl said of Prince. "That's just an incredible stat line. ... That was a special afternoon for J.P. He's like Gumbi or (Inspector) Gadget with those arms. He's a 'Go-Go-Gadget' guy."
Saturday's biggest numbers were a more collective effort, though. UT held Vanderbilt below 40 percent shooting in both halves and forced 23 turnovers.
The Vols turned it over just 11 times and a mere five in the first 28 minutes.
UT also capped its best defensive week in nearly decade, allowing a combined 98 points to Georgia and Vanderbilt in a four-day span. The Vols haven't been stiffer in back-to-back SEC games since 1997.
"We're sick and tired of people saying we can't play defense," Prince said.
The Vols jumped to a 21-8 lead before going frigid from the field and free-throw line, and Festus Ezeli slipped inside with a score that cut Vanderbilt's deficit to 23-18 late in the first half.
UT started the second half as well as the first, though, quickly extending its lead to 48-28 before slowing the tempo and coasting down the stretch. Vanderbilt never sliced the deficit to single digits.
"The start of the game, and the start of the second half, we took control and sent a strong message that we were ready to play," Pearl said.
The Vols were far from perfect. They started 3-for-10 from the free-throw line and finished 13-for-23. Aside from Smith, they were 3-for-16 from behind the arc.
It was hard to fault their defense, though.
Vanderbilt's two leaders - sophomore center A.J. Ogilvy and junior guard Jermaine Beal - shot a combined 4-for-17.
Ogilvy continued his career struggles against UT, attempting just one shot in 11 foul-plagued, first-half minutes and doing most of his damage with the game clearly decided.
"The best way to defend the post is to pressure the perimeter and make them handle the way farther away from the basket than they're comfortable," Pearl said. "I'd say that Wayne (Chism) and Brian (Williams) have always played well against Ogilvy, and it's always been their other inside guys that have hurt us more."
Four of UT's next five games are away from home, and three are against the SEC East's other three title contenders - Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina. The Vols play Wednesday at Ole Miss.
"It's good that we took care of business this week, but it's about to get a whole lot tougher," Smith said.