Mississippi mauling

Mississippi mauling

All of those Tennessee fans who wondered what would happen if Brian Williams ever played up to his potential got their answer Saturday at Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford.

Showing a previously unseen aggressiveness, the 6-foot-10, 270-pound Vol senior muscled in 7 of 8 shots en route to an 18-point, 9-rebound, 4-assist, 2-block performance as the Big Orange routed Ole Miss 74-57.

The win, Tennessee's fourth in a row in SEC play, improves the Vol record to 14-7 overall and 4-2 in league play. Ole Miss slips to 13-8 and 1-5.

Tony Jones, now 4-2 filling in for suspended Vol head man Bruce Pearl, wasn't terribly surprised by Brian Williams' performance.

"We kind of challenged him today in the shoot-around," Jones said on the post-game show. "We said, 'Brian, these guys are not as big as you are. Come in with a mindset to score the basketball because we're going to go to you. We're going to spoon-feed you.'

"Our guards did a great job of that but Brian did a great job of finishing at a high rate - seven for eight from the field, four of five from the free-throw line, 18 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes. Obviously, he played well."

While the biggest man on the floor was dominating on the inside, the smallest man on the floor was struggling mightily on the perimeter. Chris Warren, the Rebels' 5-10, 168-pound point guard, made just 6 of 21 field-goal tries (1 of 10 in the second half). He finished with 16 points - just 2.3 points off his season's average - but had virtually no impact on the game.

Warren wasn't the only Rebel Tennessee shut down, however. Ole Miss came into Saturday's play leading the SEC with a 47.0 percent field-goal success rate but made just 26.7 percent (16 of 60) vs. the Vols, including a frigid 15.8 percent (3 of 19) from beyond the arc. The Rebels also managed just 5 assists and committed 16 turnovers.

As outstanding as Williams was, he wasn't the whole show for Tennessee. Scotty Hopson chipped in 16 points and Cameron Tatum added 13, all in the second half.

"He was a big reason we won the basketball game," Jones said of Tatum, "because he got on a roll. And he did a good job on Zach Graham (Ole Miss' second-leading scorer at 14.4 points per game). Graham was 0 for 2 and just scored five points."

Tennessee finished the first half with six more field goals than Ole Miss (13 to 7) and 12 more rebounds (29-17) but allowed the Rebels to stay in the game at the free-throw line. The hosts made 16 of 19 from the stripe, compared to the Vols' 4 of 5, and that produced a 32-32 halftime deadlock.

"They went to the free-throw line 19 times and we went only five; I mentioned that to the officials," Jones deadpanned. "But we didn't do the type of job we could've done, especially on the glass. We fouled 'em a lot."

The Rebels led 45-44 when Tennessee took control of the game with a 14-2 explosion.

Hopson opened the run with a drive, then Williams made a pair of free throws. Steven Pearl scored in transition for a 50-45 lead. After a couple of Ole Miss free throws, John Fields hit a foul shot for Tennessee, Tatum drained a 3, Hopson scored in transition and Tatum tallied on a coast-to-coast drive as the lead swelled to 58-47 with 9:29 remaining.

A 3-pointer by Melvin Goins widened the gap to 14 points (63-49) with 7:00 to play and a 3 by Trae Golden produced the game's biggest lead (74-55) inside the final minute.

Tennessee's second half was among its best of the season. The Vols shot 55.2 percent from the field, dished out nine assists and committed just three turnovers while outscoring Ole Miss 42-25.

"Obviously, Coach (Pearl) and the staff put in the game plan but the players executed the game plan perfectly," Jones said. "They were on task."

Tennessee returns to action Thursday, visiting Auburn for an 8 o'clock Central Time tipoff.

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