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NIT Season Tip-Off: Tennessee beats Louisville 92-81, advances to final

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The first big win of the season.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Season Tip-Off-Louisville at Tennessee Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee and Louisville got the Preseason NIT Tournament started with a fun, competitive game on Wednesday afternoon in Brooklyn.

It was Grant Williams early and often for Tennessee. Louisville really had no answers for the reining SEC player of the year. Williams attacked the rim, drawing fouls and converting three and-one attempts in the first half alone. Grant was 7-11 at the half, adding six rebounds and two blocks to his line.

Admiral Schofield was the secondary option, finding his long-range stroke after a couple of mediocre games. He was able to contribute nine points to the cause, coming up with a couple of big answers in the first half.

For the Cardinals, it was all about the long ball. Louisville began by hovering right at 50 percent from three point range. That was able to keep them in the ballgame early on, even grabbing a couple of leads in the first half.

Finally, the jumpers quit falling for the Cardinals. That allowed Tennessee to jump back into the driver’s seat of this one before half. The Vols put together a quick run to get to a five point lead at the break.

It was a 45-40 lead for Tennessee, marking the first time that this group had given up 40 points in the first half since Vanderbilt last year.

The three-balls picked back up for Louisville in the second half. Every time it felt like Tennessee was about to really take control, the Cardinals launched — and hit.

Louisville tied the game up at 60 all with 12 minutes to play. Lamonte Turner answered with a three of his own, only to be answered by Jordan Nwora once more. It was quickly turning into a back and forth game.

At the seven minute mark though, Tennessee finally got a break. An and-one from Kyle Alexander, then a jumper from Admiral Schofield bought the Vols some breathing room. A neck and neck game was suddenly an 80-70 game.

It got worse for Louisville. An instant 14-0 run pushed Tennessee’s lead to 15 points with under five minutes to play. What was a competitive game for about 35 minutes, was done.

The Vols put this one on ice, beating the Cardinals 92-80.

Grant Williams was the player of the game for Tennessee, finishing with 24 points and going 9-15 from the floor. Schofield supplied the Vols with 20 more, while Turner turned in 13 points in his season debut.

Tennessee awaits the winner of Kansas vs. Marquette later tonight.