The Vols, now 12-7, limited superstar Kemba Walker to 6-of-17 shooting and 16 points, well below his 25.5 average. But freshman guards Jeremy Lamb (6 of 10 field goals, 16 points) and Roscoe Smith (4 of 5 from 3, 12 points) picked up the slack for the Huskies, now 16-2.
"The two freshmen, Lamb and Roscoe Smith, killed us," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "We talked about pressing up on those guys when they had the ball to make them do things.... But we didn't make Lamb do anything; we didn't make Roscoe do anything. All we did was give 'em open shots. Those two freshmen outplayed us at the 2 and 3."
Noting that Lamb and Smith were going against veteran Vols - juniors Cameron Tatum and Scotty Hopson, senior Josh Bone and sophomore Skylar McBee - Pearl added: "That shouldn't happen."
The primary bright spot for Tennessee was Melvin Goins. The senior point guard registered 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and just 1 turnover. He also contributed significantly to the defensive effort on Kemba Walker.
"I thought Melvin played terrific," Pearl said. "He probably played the best on the team. He scored it, shot a good percentage, had 5 assists, 1 turnover, 2 steals. He played like a man. He gets an A or A-plus for his performance."
Hopson added 13 points for the Vols but made just 5 of 13 shots and committed a game-high 5 turnovers. He came into Saturday's game with eight consecutive scoring efforts between 15 and 24 points.
"Scotty was off tonight, unfortunately," Pearl said. "He's been real consistent but you can't let your offensive game affect your defensive game."
Meanwhile, 6-9 UConn sophomore Alex Oriakhi outplayed Tennessee senior centers John Fields and Brian Williams. Oriakhi hit 5 of 8 shots, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Fields produced just 3 points and 1 rebound, Williams 4 points and 7 rebounds.
Freshman Tobias Harris chipped in 10 points for the Vols, who return to SEC play Wednesday night, hosting LSU.
Tennessee raced to an early 19-11 lead but trailed 32-31 at halftime and 52-51 with 8:30 to go. The Huskies took over the game at this point. Smith nailed a 3, then Charles Okwandu and Oriakhi scored on consecutive putbacks to cap a 7-0 spurt that gave UConn its biggest lead at 59-51 with 6:35 remaining.
Goins hit a free throw and assisted Harris for a layup but Lamb hit a 3, Oriakhi turned a Hopson turnover into a breakaway dunk, then Lamb scored from the lane as the lead swelled to 66-54 with 3:23 left.
UConn missed the front end of two 1-and-1s in the final two minutes but Tennessee couldn't take advantage.
"We succumbed to fatigue," Pearl said. "The first half we were sharp and executed. We looked tired (the second half).... We got to standing around, didn't work hard enough on the offensive end, didn't work hard enough on the defensive end.
"It's just very, very disappointing. This was a missed opportunity."