KNOXVILLE (AP) — Jim Calhoun hates when his Connecticut Huskies are outworked — especially in the paint. The problem is it keeps happening.
Connecticut struggled against a strong inside game from Tennessee, led by freshman forward Jarnell Stokes. The Volunteers beat the 13th-ranked Huskies 60-57 on Saturday, holding the defending national champions to a season low in points.
"We have no post setup. I've been talking about that," Calhoun said. "They made some big plays and defended us pretty well. Mainly they just dug, scratched and clawed. We thought on tape they played hard, and they played harder than we did. That's how they won the game."
Connecticut came in averaging 47.9 percent shooting but managed just 36.4 against a stingy Vols defense. Jeremy Lamb scored 23 points and Shabazz Napier finished with 18 for the Huskies, who saw forward Alex Oriakhi foul out with 5:53 left to play.
"We talked about getting the ball in the post, but who are you going to throw to?" Calhoun said. "Alex occasionally made a presence known, but no one else made a presence in there. (The Vols) had plenty of presence in the post. They outworked us, they were tougher than we were and they won the game."
The Huskies have lost back-to-back games and three contests on the road this season.
"We're not getting enough on offense. We're not getting enough on defense. There is only so much each person can do," Napier said. "If I knew what the problem was we wouldn't be losing."
Tennessee and Connecticut traded the lead six times in the first half in a game that was tied five times. Lamb drove past Stokes to the basket and hit a layup to send the Huskies into halftime with a 27-25 lead.
But the Vols opened the second half with a 3-pointer from Cameron Tatum, who finished with 15 points, and a layup by Stokes. Tennessee scored the first nine points of the half and wouldn't trail again.
"I thought we did a good job defensively," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "We've gotten a lot better in that area and are taking pride in defending. I thought we did a good job of really challenging shooters and boxing out, which wasn't an easy task if you look at those guys. They've got some big guys when you get up close to them."
The Huskies missed their first five shots from the field after halftime. Napier hit a long jumper with 15:22 to play to end the drought, cutting Tennessee's lead to 34-30.
Then it was the Vols who went cold, going 6:32 without a field goal. Stokes hit a free throw during the drought and finally sank a jumper with 9:55 to play, and the freshman went on to score a total of six points during a 2-minute stretch to help the Vols build their lead.
Tennessee led by 10 points with 3:15 remaining and had a 55-48 edge when Lamb sank a 3-pointer to cut the margin to four with 37 seconds left. Lamb then fouled Trae Golden, who hit one of his two free throws, before Shabazz Napier hit a 3 to cut the Vols' lead to 56-54 with 23 seconds to go.
Niels Giffey fouled Tennessee's Skylar McBee, who hit both free throws to seal it. Tennessee hit 7 of 10 free throws in the final minute to hold off the Huskies after having shot 42.3 percent.
Tennessee had struggled with ball control in recent games and committed a season-high 20 turnovers in an overtime loss at Georgia on Wednesday. The Vols gave the ball away nine times in the first half, leading to nine UConn points, but would only commit one turnover on an offensive foul in the second half.
Though it was Martin's first time facing Calhoun and Connecticut as a coach, the former Purdue star logged a win as a player in 1992. Martin had chosen Purdue over Calhoun's Huskies out of high school, and as a sophomore logged 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal to help the Boilermakers grab a 73-69 win against them.
"He was a great kid and, obviously, he's evolved into a great coach," Calhoun said. "He's done something we haven't done. He's gotten his kids to play hard."