Tennessee held off N.C. State to take 3rd place in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Vols picked up two nice resume wins during this trip to the Bahamas and showed that they could play with an outstanding Villanova team. That sounds like a successful trip to me.
As for today, this one started sloppy for both sides, but a little less sloppy for Tennessee. Jordan Bone was really the motor that got things running for the Vols. Two quick three pointers from him got Tennessee ahead early.
Neither side really found a groove in the first half. Turnovers were the story here. Tennessee had 12 while N.C. State committed 16 in the first half of play. To Tennessee’s credit, they turned those 16 turnovers into 18 points.
Bone closed the first half with a tough three point play to give the Vols a seven point lead going into halftime.
The second half of this one began similarly to the Villanova game. The Wolfpack came out with a different look about them and immediately went on a 7-2 run to close the Tennessee lead to just two. This time around, the Vols had an answer. Kyle Alexander got an easy slam down low and Chris Darrington followed that up with a wide open three from the corner.
The two teams traded blows down the stretch. Tennessee hung on to about an eight point lead until Markell Johnson hit a three to pull N.C. State to within five. The lead would be trimmed to four on the next possession, but Grant Williams came through for the Vols with a three point play to follow. The lead was back to seven.
But Omer Yurtseven came to life. Tennessee lost the big man in the paint a few times as he was able to get the Wolfpack back to within four points.
N.C. State just couldn’t get any closer. Tennessee had an answer every time the Wolfpack got close. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of wins today, but you’ve got to be encouraged with what you saw from the Vols during this week’s tournament.
Kyle Alexander was active and aggressive, winning battles down low for Tennessee on what wasn’t really Grant Williams’ best day. Alexander finished with 8 points and 13 rebounds. Jordan Bowden didn’t do much today, but he showed up late and hit some big shots in the closing minutes.
Admiral Schofield had his worst performance of the season, going 0-6 from the floor. The good news here is that the Vols found a way to win without him. It seemed like Tennessee won or competed in a couple of different ways throughout this tournament, which is a good sign.
The 4-1 Vols will return home to Knoxville to take on Mercer on Wednesday at 7 pm eastern.