KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Josh Richardson scored 18 of his season-high 20 points in the second half and Kevin Punter added a career-high 18 points to lead Tennessee to a 67-55 upset win over No. 15 Butler on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The win marked Tennessee’s (4-3) first win over a ranked opponent since taking down then-No. 8 Florida, 64-58 on Feb. 26, 2013.
“Everyone knows Butler’s tradition and we knew it would be an absolute battle for 40 minutes and it certainly was just that,” Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall said. “Our crowd was fantastic. They gave us a lot of energy toward the end of the game.”
Richardson scored 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting and also had three rebounds and three assists. It was Richardson’s first 20-point game since he dropped 26 on Mercer on March 23, 2014, in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Punter scored 18 on 7-of-10 shooting and added four rebounds and one assist.
“Josh Richardson has done an incredible job of leading our team,” Tyndall said. “He’s challenged our guys verbally and they’re rising to his level.”
Armani Moore hit some key shots late in the game and finished with nine points and eight boards.
Butler fell to 8-2 with the loss. The Bulldogs shot just 33.3 percent from the field and Tennessee held them to 26.1 percent shooting in the second half (6-of-23). Kellen Dunham scored a team-high 16 points, going 4-of-11 from long distance.
Kelan Martin scored 13 points and Kameron Woods hauled down a game-high 16 rebounds.
Derek Reese made a big three-pointer from up top with 2:10 left to make UT’s lead 61-55 and a Richardson hit a jumper a minute later to give the Vols an eight-point lead. Tennessee closed out the game from the free-throw line, connecting on 4-of-5 in the final minute.
Moore swished home two free throws to give the Vols a six-point advantage with 3:04 remaining, but Butler answered immediately when Andrew Chrabascz hit a 3-pointer from the left corner.
Tennessee took command of the game in the final seven minutes. Moore made a spin move in the paint for a layup to give Tennessee a 50-49 lead with 6:15 on the clock. Punter made a free throw and drained a 3-pointer from the right corner to ignite the crowd and push UT’s lead to 54-49 with 4:42 left.
Richardson’s hot second-half shooting countered the Butler offense, which came back to life midway through the second half. Richardson hit a jumper with 11:27 draw UT to within 40-39 and connected on another jumper two minutes later to bring the Vols to within 46-45. Tennessee tied the game once again a 48-48 when Moore converted a three-point play with 7:28 left.
UT seized control of the game with a 12-0 run early in the second half. Tennessee drew to within 37-35 when Punter drove under the backset for a reverse layup. Two minutes later Reese’s put-back on a fast break knotted the game at 37-37 with 13:57 remaining.
Richardson took over two minutes into the second half. After Butler had pushed its lead to 37-25 coming out of the break, Richardson eight-straight points to bring Tennessee back to within four.
Moore stole an inbounds pass and Richardson drilled a 12-footer from the left side to bring UT to within 37-31. Richardson then stole pass at midcourt and took it to the hoop for a layup to pull the Vols to within 37-33 by the first media timeout of the second half.
Butler used a 15-6 run over the final nine minutes of the first half to take a 34-25 lead into halftime. Dunham and Martin had 11 points and 10 points, respectively to lead the Bulldogs in the first half.
Butler dominated the glass in the first half with a 24-12 rebounding advantage. Punter led Tennessee with six first-half points.
The Vols evened the game at 17-17 when Devon Baulkman hit a 3-pointer with 10:06 remaining in the first half.
UT started the game with a 4-0 lead after Punter hit a pair of jumpers on UT’s first two possessions. Butler’s offense responded and the Bulldogs took an 8-6 lead with on a 3-pointer by Dunham at the 16:04 mark.
Tennessee and Butler traded buckets through the first 10 minutes and the Bulldogs led 17-12 by the second media timeout.
Tennessee will next face NC State on Dec. 17 in Raleigh, N.C. The game will be televised on ESPN2. UT returns to Thompson-Boling Arena on Dec. 19 to host Tennessee Tech.