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Maui Invitational: Vols Rally, Fall to Wisconsin

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Tennessee vs Wisconsin Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin opened this thing on a 12-0 run in the first three minutes and built an early 17 point lead, and it seemed like it was going to be that kind of day in that kind of year. But the young Vols didn’t go away whatsoever: Tennessee was down eight at halftime, took the lead 46-44 with 12 minutes to play, and an and-one by Shembari Phillips still had the Vols within six at the under four timeout. On the ensuing possession Detrick Mostella got a steal and a two-on-one but couldn’t convert, and the Vols would get no closer thanks to big threes from the Badgers late. Wisconsin won 74-62.

But there was stuff to like. Robert Hubbs had a dozen and Shembari Phillips was really good with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The Vols got a dozen from Mostella but on 4-of-13. It was Tennessee’s athleticism that helped this thing stay close: 18 turnovers for the Badgers compared to only 10 for Tennessee, and many of those coming in the final three minutes when things were slipping away. Grant Williams wins freshman of the game with six points and three rebounds off the bench, providing a much-needed interior presence. Kyle Alexander had only two points but did grab six rebounds.

This was an encouraging loss, and if the Vols catch Georgetown tomorrow it’s a game they could talk themselves into winning. Much of that will depend on the maturation of a young team that showed flashes of the future today.