- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) - Detrick Mostella heated up just enough at the end of each half to make sure Tennessee survived a rare trip to East Tennessee State.

Mostella scored a career-high 25 points off the bench and put Tennessee ahead for good by sinking two free throws with 1:11 remaining Thursday as the Volunteers outlasted East Tennessee State 72-68. Tennessee (7-5) was playing at ETSU for the first time since 1963 and disappointed a sellout crowd of 6,149.

“I feel like we’d been in this position before,” Mostella said. “We’ve had a lot of close games that we lost and couldn’t really overcome. I feel like tonight we took a big step going into Christmas by overcoming and getting this win.”

Mostella’s free throws gave Tennessee a 67-65 advantage. He added a jump shot with 29 seconds left to make it 69-65, the first time since midway through the second half that either team led by more than two points.

He also scored Tennessee’s last 13 points of the first half.

“I wouldn’t say it’s surprising at all,” Tennessee forward Grant Williams said. “We know Detrick’s capabilities. We know whenever it’s time, we can call upon him - and he does a better job playing defense than most people give him credit (for), and that really fueled his fire on offense, I believe.”

ETSU (9-3) was attempting to beat a Southeastern Conference team for the second time in just over a week. The Buccaneers had won 67-65 at Mississippi State on Dec. 15 thanks to Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s tip-in with 1.4 seconds left.

This time, the Bucs led 65-64 on a Mosquera-Perea basket with 2:13 left before Tennessee went on an 8-0 run to pull ahead for good.

“I’m not deflated,” said ETSU coach Steve Forbes, who was an assistant coach at Tennessee from 2006-11. “They’re not deflated. It’s one game, and we’re 9-3. Last year we didn’t even have a winning record at Christmas time.”

T.J. Cromer and Desonta Bradford each scored 14 points for ETSU. A.J. Merriweather had 11 points and David Burrell had 10.

Robert Hubbs III scored 11 for Tennessee, which was playing its final game before opening Southeastern Conference competition next week.

Neither team could make a shot for most of the first half before Mostella provided a spark.

Mostella scored 13 straight Tennessee points - all in a span of about 2 ½ minutes - to give the Vols a 32-23 lead at the intermission. Tennessee closed the first half on a 9-2 run that included a trio of 3-pointers from Mostella.

“We weren’t scoring at the time and we needed some offense,” Mostella said. “Luckily the offense started falling, I started making shots and everybody started getting in their routine.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: After falling behind 27-6 in an 86-76 loss to No. 7 Gonzaga on Sunday, the Vols responded by having Kyle Alexander and Lamonte Turner replace Lew Evans and Shembari Phillips in the starting lineup.

Alexander scored Tennessee’s first four points of the game but encountered foul trouble later and finished with six points. Turner scored four points and shot 1 of 7.

ETSU: The Bucs were uncharacteristically cold early as they missed 15 of their first 16 shots from two-point range and were just 8 of 32 overall in the first half. They got back in the game by shooting 16 of 32 in the second half.

ETSU entered Thursday night with a .489 field-goal percentage that ranked 31st among all Division I teams.

KEY STAT

Tennessee outrebounded ETSU 44-35 and outscored the Bucs 22-12 in second-chance points. ETSU entered the game with a plus-6.1 rebound margin.

INJURY UPDATE

Jordan Bone, who opened the season as Tennessee’s starting point guard, missed a ninth-straight game with a stress fracture in his foot. The Vols are hoping Bone can return for their SEC opener Dec. 29 at Texas A&M.;

UP NEXT

Tennessee visits Texas A&M; on Dec. 29.

ETSU hosts Savannah State on Dec. 29.

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More AP College Basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org

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Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee


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