This one turned out to be every bit of the heavyweight fight it was advertised to be. Unfortunately for Tennessee, things went south late in Brooklyn.
Kansas got off to a hot start, taking advantage of their size on the interior. Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks’ 7-1 center, went right at Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander with some success early on.
Meanwhile, Tennessee struggled to take the lid off of the rim. The Vols started 0-8 from three point range and didn’t find much luck inside either. They made up for that by tightening up defensively and contesting every opportunity.
It was a bit of an ugly start until Lamonte Turner checked into the game. Tennessee’s sixth man threw some gas on the fire, drilling a couple of three-pointers and single-handedly getting the Vols their first lead.
With Williams and Admiral Schofield getting a breather, Turner picked up the slack. He added eight huge points to end the first half. Jordan Bone nailed a three at the buzzer to give Tennessee a 33-31 lead at the halftime break.
Tennessee came out of the break ready to play. Kansas continued to double team Grant Williams and Grant kept making the perfect pass out of it. He found Bone for three and Alexander for a couple of slams to give the Vols a seven point lead with 16 minutes to play.
Azubuike picked up two quick fouls to start the second half, giving him four for the night. Kansas was forced to play without their defensive eraser for a good chunk of the second half.
But the Jayhawks battled back, of course. Admiral Schofield was forced to the bench with his third foul, opening the door for Kansas to take advantage. They got it back to within four with 12 minutes to play, following an and-one from Dedric Lawson.
The middle portions of the second half were ugly and physical. Williams, Fulkerson and Schofield each picked up their third fouls, forcing Rick Barnes to get a little creative with his lineups.
Both sides continued to trade buckets, with the Vols holding a small advantage with eight minutes left to play. Finally, Kansas got a three from Lagerald Vick to pull even at 56 all.
Following the timeout, Vick hit another to give Kansas the lead back. Vick then hit a mid-range jumper to extend the lead to five.
Just when things had fallen apart, Grant Williams was there to get things back on track. It was a fade away from the post, then a trailing three-pointer from Williams that got the game back to 61 all.
Directly after that, Azubuike fouled out of the game after just 17 minutes of time on the floor. That meant more Grant Williams for Tennessee, who immediately gave the Vols the lead back with a bucket inside.
Dedric Lawson had an answer though — a couple of them actually. Lawson hit two free throws then hit a contested shot from the post to give Kansas the lead again.
Williams and Vick traded buckets again at the two minute mark, then Schofield hit a huge three to give the Vols a two point lead.
Then at the other end, Williams picked up his fifth foul, ending his night with 1:24 to play. He ended up with 18-8-6 on the night.
Jordan Bone came up empty on an ugly possession after Kansas tied it at the free throw line. It was 69 all with 19 seconds to play with the Jayhawks possessing the ball.
Kansas ran the clock down trying to hold for the last shot, but Schofield was able to tip the ball away. There were two seconds remaining on the clock. Kansas got it into Lawson, but he wasn’t able to do anything with it.
It was overtime in Brooklyn to decide the NIT Season Tip-Off champion — without Grant Williams.
Kansas immediately jumped out to a five point lead. Tennessee was out of sorts offensively without Williams. On a night where Admiral Schofield couldn’t find his stroke, it turned out to be an unsurmountable issue. To Admiral’s credit, he came to life late. He paced the offense in overtime, ending up with 21 points on the night. However, it took 22 shots to get there.
The Jayhawks proved to be a little deeper than the Vols tonight, having their way in the overtime period. This one stings for Tennessee, considering how long they controlled this game. It won’t hurt them at all, but this is probably one they’ll end up wanting back down the road.