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Men's College Basketball: Vols Ride Defense To 81-71 Win Over Lipscomb

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The Vols square off against an in-state opponent for the first time this season.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Tennessee vs North Carolina State
Tennessee entered this game ranked 24th in the country.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Tennessee introduced new head football coach Jeremey Pruitt before the Vols squared off against the Lipscomb Bisons on Saturday afternoon.

And what a coincidence it was that the Vols rode an excellent defensive performance to notch their seventh win of the season in front of the former Alabama defensive coordinator.

NCAA Basketball: Lipscomb at Tennessee
New head coach Jeremy Pruitt was introduced to the crowd before today's game.
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

The Vols came into Saturday's matchup with Lipscomb University ranked 24th in the nation. The last time Tennessee held a spot in the top 25 was during the Bruce Pearl era back in 2010.

But even though the Bisons aren't your typical basketball powerhouse, many pundits and most fans had this game pegged as a potential trap game.

It didn't start out that way in the first half, however, as the Vols rode an outstanding defensive performance to a 40-27 lead at halftime. As soon as the ball was tipped-off, the speed and physicality of the Vols was simply too much for the Bisons.

The Vols shutdown the Bisons leading man, guard Garrison Matthews, and were able to keep Lipscomb away from the three-point line - which is something not many teams can do.

It wasn't just the defense that came to play, either. Despite a slow start, Tennessee was able to get good, complimentary play from the offense as well. The fact that UT shot 47% from the field compared to 35% by Lipscomb exemplified the offensive effort by the Vols quite well.

NCAA Basketball: Lipscomb at Tennessee
Kyle Alexander continues to improve this season.
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Not only was Tennessee efficient and balanced, but they made plays when it mattered. Lipscomb had cut a double-digit lead down to just five points before senior guard James Daniel III hit back-to-back three point shots to start a huge run that resulted in another double-digit lead for the Vols.

The Vols went into halftime with a 40-27 lead and had plenty of momentum after scoring 16 of the 40 points during the final 5:30 minutes of the first half.

But Tennessee came out cold on offense again, hitting just 17% of their shots for the first six minutes of the second half, which allowed the Bisons to go on a 13-4 run and get right back into the game.

It didn't last long however, as the Vols answered right back with an 11-2 run themselves. Once again, they were able to get the lead back over ten points, but that didn't stop the Bisons from attempting a late run.

Oh they tried, but how they failed. And failed hard.

Tennessee's offense did enough to keep the distance between the two teams, but just like the first half - the defense stepped up in a huge way in order to seal the victory after sophomore forward Grant Williams put the exclamation point on the night with a huge block on Matthews to officially crush the Bisons hopes at an upset.

This team is growing more and more before our eyes and will be a major pain in North Carolina's ass come next Sunday. It's a nice turn of events coming off of the football program's hellacious coaching search.