PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas. Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and ruthless rebounders, as well as being so tough that the reigning national champions had little chance of settling in.
That was enough to give the 22nd-place Volunteers a title of their own, as well as a plan that coach Rick Barnes hopes they will follow for the rest of the year.
Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points as Tennessee trailed third-place Kansas in Friday’s 64–50 victory in the championship game at Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.
Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the MVP of the Volunteer Tournament (5-1), which dominated the points, overcame their own turnover issues and kept the Jayhawks working on clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without top scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).
That may be why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses at the post-game press conference after volunteers danced and yelled during the awards ceremony on the court.
“We know that if you can’t stop the person in front of you, you won’t stand a chance of winning,” Zeigler said, adding, “We just love playing defense and we’re just good at it. It.”
The Vols held off the Jayhawks with 32.1% shooting, harassing them with size and length around the rim. They also intercepted the ball right outside the Jayhawks with the 5ft 9in Ziegler in the lead, to the point that he refused to let go of the ball and exchanged words with forward Jalen Wilson 6-8.
Ziegler’s evening included a three-pointer that broke the shot clock at the 7-minute mark and extended Tennessee’s lead to 56–38. He followed up with another big one from the right at 4:42 from the left after Kansas closed within 11.
Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks 6-1, who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They hit 5 of 21 3-pointers throughout a tough night, from losing starting quarterback Dajuan Harris to fouls 9 minutes before failing to keep the Wolves off the glass (45-27).
“Today we played a team that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and harder,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “We didn’t handle the situation as well as I hope a balanced team can.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler and then defeated Southern California in overtime in Thursday’s semi-finals. This time around, Tennessee played up front all the way to their first title in three attempts at the Atlantis resort.
“I think the main thing for the whole week was to stay together during difficult times, that’s what you should be doing,” Vescovi said.
Kansas: The Jayhawks’ first two days in the Bahamas were tough. First, the battle with the state of North Carolina reached the last minutes. This was followed by Thursday’s overtime victory over Wisconsin, when Bobby Pettiford Jr. pulled the ball back in the last second. But this time, they never looked into any attack stream with their smaller lineup.
“I feel like if we could get them out of the way, and not just leave them standing there waiting to contest a layoff, that might give us a better chance of finishing at the ring,” Wilson said.
Tennessee held off three of their Atlantis rivals with 36.9% shooting and 15-of-59 (25.4%) from three-point range. The Volunteers also averaged +9 rebounding points, with Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading the top five with at least six rebounds against Kansas.
“You can be a good defensive team, but you can’t be great if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.
In addition to the Harris foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the time without Pettiford, who busted out midway through the first half with a right foot grab.
Afterwards, Self said he would be out “for a while” due to a hamstring strain.
Tennessee: Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.
Kansas: Jayhawks take on Texas South on Monday.
NASSAU, Bahamas. Gideon George scored 21 and joined Jackson Robinson and Rudy Williams for 15 in overtime as the Cougars pulled back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime on Friday.
BYU’s victory came in the seventh place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) their first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game to lead 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.
Mike Sharavyams’ basket returned the lead to Dayton, but George’s free throw sent the game into overtime with a minute left.
Dayton scored the first points in overtime, but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good in the middle of the extra period.
Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11, and they joined George in double figures for BYU.
Daron Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavyams 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting quarterbacks Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower body injuries in the second half, with Smith only seconds left in regulation.
PORTLAND, Oregon. – Moses Wood scored 16 points as Portland defeated Villanova 83-71 on Friday at the Phil Knight Invitational.
Villanova (2-4) lost three games in a row, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday, dropping below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.
Simple Vasily Vucinic for 4:16 before the end of the first half forever brought Portland forward. By the break, the Pilots were eight points ahead and scored the first 10 points in the second half.
Wood added six rebounds and three blocked shots (5-3) to the pilots. Tyler Robertson scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting (1-of-5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Christian Sjolund scored 14 points and shot 5 of 7 (2 of 3 from three-pointers).
Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also received 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater scored 11 points.
PORTLAND, Oregon. Caleb Grill followed South Dakota State’s T.J. Oetzelberger to UNLV and now back to Iowa, hoping the pair could share a moment like Friday.
The victory over the No. 1 team in the country was another highlight for the couple in a long journey.
“I actually really enjoy sitting next to him from now on right now, just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how awesome it was,” Otzelberger said.
Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points as Iowa State rallied in the last five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.
Iowa State (5-0) scored only its third victory against the AP Top 25 ranked team. The Cyclones went 3-22 against the No. 1 teams, with other victories coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 1957. 2016.
The Cyclones can now add North Carolina to the roster (5-1).
“I just stuck to the course of the game. I never thought about it and the game just came to me,” Grill said.
Grill averaged 7.3 points and made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season that began on Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from behind the arc, hitting a pair of big threes, prompting a late Iowa State play. His deep, smooth shot right inside the three-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63–61 lead, and the Cyclones made just enough on the free throw line in the last minute to close out a disappointing victory.
Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020–21 season against Alabama. He also made seven 3-pointers in that game.
Grill originally signed with South Dakota State while Otzelberger was a coach there. He was released from his obligations when Otzelberger took over as UNLV executive and began his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.
When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed him again.
“Just the fact that he was the first person to really believe in me, it’s just really special what he did for me and my family and everything we did,” Grill said.
Jaren Holmes added 22 points, while the Cyclones withstood shots from Aljaz Kunz and Gabe Kalscher, who totaled three points and missed on all eight shot attempts. Both averaged double figures for the Iowa State team.
RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacott added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12 points.
“We had open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get everything we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.
North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of his last six shots and lost four balls in that time.
“We flipped the ball a few times, and in the later stages of the game, it’s just not possible,” Davis said. “You have to be healthy and disciplined and you have to do it at both ends of the court and we just didn’t.”
NO. 1 LOSS
North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time since November 21, 2015, when it lost 71-67 in North Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost to #1 UNLV in the 2011 Thanksgiving Tournament.
THE BIG PICTURE
North Carolina: Pete Nance failed to make the same contribution as he did in the first round on Thursday. Nance, who tied his career with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score in the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.
Iowa State: The Cyclones played the No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the Big Island Championship Game…