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Tennessee battles, comes up short against No. 5 Villanova, 85-76

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The Vols led this one, but couldn’t hang on.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Villanova vs Tennessee Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee stayed hot out of the gates against Villanova, building off of what they showed in their upset against Purdue. If anything, the Vols were more balanced in their first half. Jordan Bowden got things rolling early on, a welcomed sign after a bit of an off game yesterday.

The Vols trailed Villanova in the middle stages of the first half, but got rolling from there. They built a lead as big as 14 points at one point, carrying at 12 point lead on the No. 5 team in the country into halftime.

Bowden went 3-5 from beyond the arc in the first half, really getting things going for Tennessee. Grant Williams — the star of the show against Purdue — started just 1-5, but turned it on after that. By halftime, Williams had 12 points.

Tennessee built their lead by capitalizing on second chances, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

The second half would prove to be a different story, however. Villanova is the 5th ranked team in the country for a reason and they showed it to open play out of the half. 'Nova went on a 23-2 run to retake the lead and control of this game.

Tennessee's 12 point lead had vanished. Suddenly the Vols were tasked with coming back from a deficit. The Wildcats were able to hold a two to three point possession for most of the second half, but Admiral Schofield got the Vols back within one possession after a long three ball with 51 seconds left.

Mikal Bridges hit one of two from the free throw stripe to give the Wildcats a four point advantage. James Daniel missed his three attempt at the other end, while ‘Nova hit two more free throws at the other end. That would do it for this one.

The Vols had their chances, but ultimately fell short due to Villanova going 33-37 from the free throw stripe. That was one of the key differences in this one.

Jalen Brunson (25 points) and Mikal Bridges (21 points) were as advertised. Tennessee just didn’t have any answer for the two of them in second half.

Williams added 20 points for Tennessee, but came up short on a couple of point blank looks. That might just have made the difference had those shots fallen. Schofield added 16 points while Daniel had 10.

One of yesterday’s stars — Lamonte Turner — had an off day. He went just 1-9 from the field and 0-3 from three point range, which undoubtedly hurt Tennessee’s chances today.

The Vols will take on the the loser of N.C. State and Northern Iowa at 2:30 eastern on Friday afternoon.