The University of Tennessee Volunteers (Vols) opened their championship game of the 2022 Battle 4 Atlantis Men’s Tournament on a 7-0 scoring run and never looked back. They eventually took down the national champions University of Kansas Jayhawks, 64-50, to win the title on Friday night.
Playing at the Imperial Arena at Atlantis in the 11th annual tournament’s championship game, the number 22 ranked Vols got 20 points from Santiago Vescovi to snap the number three ranked Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak. Senior guard Vescovi, who hails from Uruguay, hit five three-pointers for his team in 36 minutes on the floor.
Vols’ Head Coach Rick Barnes said that his players played some tough defense all tournament.
“These guys came out and sustained it,” Barnes said. “It has been three days of hard-nosed defensive basketball against some physicality, different matchups.”
The win has the Vols sporting a 5-1 win/loss record while the Jayhawks sport a 6-1 record. There is still plenty basketball left in the season. Rankings mean nothing for the Vols, said Barnes. The victory over Kansas marks their fifth straight win over an AP (Associated Press) top 10 opponent – the second
longest streak in school history.
The Vols were much bigger length-wise and used it to their advantage, coming away with 45 rebounds compared to 27 for the Jayhawks. The rebounding edge helped to offset 24 turnovers by the Vols. The Vols were dominant throughout, leading wire-to-wire.
In the first four minutes of the game, three different scorers got the Vols going. During that early span, the Jayhawks missed six field goal attempts and was whistled for two offensive fouls. It was not a pretty start for the national champions. The Jayhawks got close to the Vols at 17-16 on a Jalen Wilson made three-point shot with 7:03 left in the first half, but the lead went back up to eight points when Vescovi made a three-point shot to put them up 26-18 with just over four minutes left on the clock. At the half, the Vols led by eight points, 33-25.
In the first half, the Jayhawks completed just 29 percent of their field goals while the Vol shot 44 percent, including making seven three-point shots.
In the second half, the Jayhawks chipped into the deficit, but the Vols kept the pressure on. They got their first double digit lead when they went up 48-38 with 10:47 left. Sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler, who scored 11 points in the second half, punctuated an 11-0 scoring run with a three-point shot to put the Vols up 56-38 with 7:01 left.
“We just like to play defense and we just happen to be good at it – thanks to him (Head Coach Barnes),” Zeigler said.
Zeigler finished the game with 14 points.
The Vols silenced the Jayhawks’ fans who were loud early in the game. The Vols’ fans got loud in the final minutes. They gave their team a standing ovation as time expired and the junkanoo music started to reverberate throughout the arena.
Wilson and Joseph Yesufu led the Jayhawks with 14 points apiece. Gradey Dick, who averaged 16.3 points in the tournament, was held to just seven points on 2-for-8 shooting in the game.
The 2022 Battle 4 Atlantis All-Tournament team are Vescovi, Wilson, the Vols’ Julian Phillips, the University of Southern California’s Boogie Ellis and the University of Wisconsin’s Tyler Wahl.