Vol point guard Bobby Maze committed just one turnover while helping force nine by the Rebels' Chris Warren as the Big Orange whipped the Rebels 76-65. Warren outscored Maze 16 points to 13 but Maze was 4 of 8 from the field, whereas Warren was just 5 of 15.
Warren is Ole Miss' catalyst so, with him off his game, the Rebels were doomed.
"Chris Warren is better from 3 than he is from 2," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl explained. "When we didn't press up on him, he knocked down tough shots. When we did press up on him and made him get into the lane, our guys were able to strip and rip.
"The physicality of the paint was not as much to his liking, so therefore we were able to make some plays with our length and with our physicality as he got into the lane. You've got to stay pressed up on him because he's a tremendous, tremendous player, scorer and shooter."
On this day, he was pressed and distressed, which is why Ole Miss is 21-10, out of the SEC tourney and anxiously hoping for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Meanwhile, No. 15 Tennessee (25-7) is preparing to face second-ranked Kentucky (30-2) at noon Central Time in Saturday's semifinals. The Big Blue advanced with a 73-67 defeat of Alabama in Friday's quarters.
Kentucky had to rally from an 11-point deficit to beat Bama, and Tennessee's path to the semis was no easier. The Rebels drained their first six 3-point attempts and led 31-26 with four minutes to go in the first half.
"You could see from the beginning they were extremely prepared," Pearl said. "They came out and made some tough shots. They've really got some dangerous guards."
So does Tennessee. Reserve wing Cameron Tatum started Tennessee's rally by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers. A J.P. Prince drive completed an 8-0 spurt that produced a 34-31 Tennessee lead but Ole Miss scrapped back to go up 35-34 at the break.
It was 44-all four minutes into the second half, then Tennessee took the lead for good. Wayne Chism scored inside and little-used Renaldo Woolridge drained a 3-pointer from the right baseline. Scotty Hopson and Tatum scored on drives to complete a 9-0 run that produced a 53-44 lead with 13:15 to go.
Ole Miss closed to 57-54 but Tennessee responded with a 10-2 spurt that widened the gap to 67-56 with 4:07 remaining. The Vols then made 9 of 14 free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.
Prince scored 17 points to pace Tennessee, which has won five games in a row and seven of its last eight. Fellow senior Chism, coming off a 17-point, 11-rebound effort in Thursday's Round 1 defeat of LSU produced another double-double (16 points, 15 rebounds) in Round 2. Tatum hit 4 of 4 from 3 in the first half and finished with 15 points.
"I thought our seniors - Bobby, J.P. and Wayne - continue to lead us on the floor and by example," Pearl said. "And Cameron, little by little, has put himself into the personality of this basketball team. He always has been a big face on our team but, because of some injuries, he hadn't been able to shine consistently. This is a great time to have him back, and he's a terrific weapon."
Warren led the scoring for Ole Miss, followed by Zach Graham (15 points) and Terrico White (13).
Although the Rebels made one more field goal (22 to 21), the Vols shot a season-high 37 foul shots and outscored Ole Miss 26-12 from the line. The Rebels were horrendous from the stripe, making just 48 percent (12 of 25).
Both teams played superior defense - Tennessee limiting Ole Miss to 38.6 percent shooting (22 of 57) and Ole Miss limiting Tennessee to 38.9 percent shooting (21 of 54). The Rebels won the backboards 42-39 but Tennessee forced 14 turnovers while committing just 8.
"That was a good win because Ole Miss is a really good basketball team," Pearl said. "They're extremely well-coached and they were playing very well coming down the stretch."