LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Rick Pitino no doubt was glad to see Louisville not have to go down to the wire against Tennessee.
Francisco Garcia scored 20 points to pace five players in double figures as the 14th-ranked Cardinals cruised to an 85-62 victory over the Volunteers.
The Cardinals, who won the last three meetings with the Volunteers by a total of seven points, broke open the contest with a 24-2 run in the second half en route to their fifth straight victory.
"Our defense in the first half was not what we were used to," Pitino said. "We wanted to come out in the second half and play the defense we played all year."
Louisville (16-3) trailed, 53-50, seven minutes into the second half when Larry O'Bannon hit a 3-pointer to start the spurt. Garcia scored seven points while Ellis Myles and Otis George added six points apiece during the eight-minute run.
"I thought we were right there," Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. "When we were up three, I thought we were in good shape. But I should have subbed much earlier in the second half and got some guys in there to save the starters toward the end."
O'Bannon scored 15 points and Myles and Juan Palacios chipped in 12 each for the Cardinals, who shot 57 percent (33-of-58) from the floor while holding the Volunteers to seven points over the final nine minutes.
Louisville, which leads the nation in average victory margin (22.7), has won 10 of its last 11 games and raised its record to 71-3 over the past six seasons when scoring at least 80 points.
"We are doing little things better," Pitino said. "We are pressing better and more intelligently. You are not just running at the guy. In the first half, they were hurting us with the pick and roll within 10 feet."
Pitino is 18-3 against Tennessee, including 13 straight victories, although most of the wins came while he coached at Kentucky.
Chris Lofton scored 15 points and C.J. Watson added 14 for Tennessee (10-8), who lost forward Brandon Crump in the first half with a sprained left ankle.
"It is really frustrating," Peterson said. "The timing isn't good since we are in conference play. I am going on the assumption he's out. We'll see what we can do without him."
The Volunteers got within 38-37 at halftime when Lofton sank four free throws with five-tenths of a second left after a two-shot foul by Brad Gianiny and a technical on Pitino for arguing the call.