Vols survive scare against Louisiana in NCAA opening round, 58-55
This marks the fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance for Tennessee.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - SECOND HALF
After an Olivier free throw, Josiah and Uros got in on the scoring first in the second half. Josiah got another quick layup after a Santi steal and assist on the fast break.
Louisiana’s first three point field goal didn’t come until the 12:46 mark of the second half. Two possessions later, Tyreke Key matched it with a three of his own from the near wing - his first from deep.
Tennessee led by 18 after the second media timeout of the second half - its largest lead of the game up to that point.
That lead immediately dwindled down to five after a 13-0 run by Louisiana - fueled by three made three pointers among five Louisiana field goals made in a row.
Both teams traded baskets down the stretch until the final media timeout. Heading back to the huddle, both teams were assessed technical fouls.
Louisiana knocked down a three to cut its deficit to six after a three-plus minute scoring drought by both teams. Jahmai Mashack drew an offensive foul to give Tennessee the ball back with 2:08 remaining and a seven point lead.
Louisiana hit another three with 1:10 to go to cut Tennessee’s lead back down to five. UT came up empty on its next offensive possession, but was able to hold onto the ball for a majority of the duration of the shot clock. A blocking foul by James sent the Cajuns to the line where they connected on both free throws to make the score 56-53 with 23 seconds to go.
A Louisiana foul send James to the line where he missed the first and made the second to make it a four-point game. Louisiana missed a three on its next possession and was forced to foul on the inbounds. Julian Phillips - one of Tennessee’s best free throw shooters - who also missed the first and connected on the second to give UT a five-point lead with 7.4 to play.
Louisiana hit a shot in the paint as time expired to cut Tennessee’s deficit down to three with no time remaining.
Tennessee took a quick 7-2 lead thanks to a few free throws from Nkamhoua, a post touch for Plavsic and a three on the wing by James on his first shot of the night.
A held ball turnover by Plavsic led to a Jordan Brown layup to cut Tennessee’s lead down to one, 10-9. That turnover led to two more in two possessions by UT - one by Vescovi and another by James leading into the first media timeout.
The three consecutive Tennessee turnovers helped Louisiana go on a 7-0 run before the break.
Coming out of the timeout, Tobe Awaka snagged an offensive board that helped Tyreke Key add two second-chance points off a midrange jumper. Vescovi banked a three in on Tennessee’s next possession to give Tennessee a 15-11 lead.
Tobe helped block a Louisiana layup. Tyreke Key snagged the rebound and pushed it up court and was fouled on a layup attempt of his own. Key knocked down his two free throws and Tennessee quickly got the ball back after a Jordan Brown turnover. The Vols lead 17-11 after the under-12 media timeout in the first half thanks to another 7-0 scoring run.
The Vols locked in on defense throughout the next media timeout - forcing four Louisiana turnovers while keeping the Cajuns off the scoreboard. Tennessee led 19-13 with 7:58 to play in the first half.
UT went cold offensively after that - going 0-for-7 and turning the ball over six times in just over six minutes, leading to an 8-0 Louisiana run that tied the game at 19-19 with 4:12 to go in the first half.
Tennessee went on a little run of its own - an 11-0 outburst that kept Louisiana off the scoreboard for the final 4:43 of the first half.
The Vols went into the locker room with a 30-19 lead.
Tennessee went with a familiar starting five to for its NCAA Tournament opener. Guards Santiago Vescovi, Jahmai Mashack, Josiah-Jordan James tipped off with forwards Olivier Nkamhoua and Uros Plavsic.
The No. 4 seed Tennessee basketball team begins NCAA Tournament play Thursday in Orlando, taking on No. 13 seed Louisiana as part of the East Region at 9:40 p.m. ET inside the Amway Center.
Tennessee (23-10) is coming off a regular season in which it played 16 games against 12 different teams in the NCAA Tournament—highlighted by wins over No. 1 seeds Alabama and Kansas and over No. 2 seed Texas.
The Vols’ inclusion in this year’s NCAA Tournament marks the fifth straight NCAA Tournament that the Vols have made. Thursday marks the 11th all-time meeting between Tennessee and Louisiana, with two of the previous meetings also having taken place in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols hold a 9-1 lead in the series.
With a win Thursday, Tennessee would advance to face the winner of No. 5 seed Duke (26-8) and No. 12 seed Oral Roberts (30-4) on Saturday. Time and television network for Saturday will be determined following the conclusion of Thursday’s games.
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