Tennessee fell for the first time on its European tour, dropping a 103-98 decision to Pezinok BK Wednesday evening in suburban Bratislava, Slovakia. The loss was the first for the Vols in the four games they have played on the tour.
“Losing was the best thing that could have happened to us,” head coach Bruce Pearl said. “When you play on the road you have to be really sharp. Our defense wasn’t any better tonight than since we have been here. It just caught up with us tonight against a great team and a great player. This is why we came over here, to get some things exposed. We definitely had some things exposed tonight.”
UT led 32-24 at the end of the first quarter but Pezinok fought back to take a 47-46 lead on a pair of free throws by Dusan Snopko. The two teams exchanged lead until the Vols took a 51-49 advantage on a JaJuan Smith lay-up just before the halftime buzzer. The Slovakians extended their lead to as many as eight points (93-85) but the Vols fought back to cut the deficit to 95-92 in the final two minutes but Pezinok continued to make its free throws to hold on to the win.
Chris Lofton led the Vols with 24 points on seven 3-pointers. JaJuan Smith scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half. Jordan Howell, Steven Pearl and Josh Tabb each added 11 points. Duke Crews had a team-high 12 rebounds while Tabb and Ryan Childress each had eight. Andrej Lukjanec led Pezinok with 38 points, 15 of which came at the free throw line.
“I am disappointed that we lost but, in the end, I think we really needed that,” Lofton said. “It let us know that we are really a long ways from where we want to be. It was a learning experience and we are going to keep it in the back of our heads and try to get better.”
The Vols travel to Vienna, Austria, Thursday morning where they will meet Klosterneuberg Friday evening.
Tennessee Scoring Summary:
Chris Lofton 24, JaJuan Smith 18, Jordan Howell 11, Steven Pearl 11, Josh Tabb 11, Ramar Smith 8, Duke Crews 7, Ryan Childress 4, Wayne Chism 4.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information