Tennessee went into Lawrence, Kansas and nearly gave the Jayhawks their fourth loss of the season on Saturday. The upset bid came up just short, however, as Kansas just simply made a couple more plays down the stretch. But it was an overall positive day for the Vols, which have seemingly come back to life a little bit after a lull through December.
One reason why is freshman point guard Santiago Vescovi, who was thrown into the starting lineup after a week’s worth of practices. Vescovi has provided Tennessee with an attacker and a shooter, two things they absolutely had to have.
After Kansas’ win over Tennessee, Jayhawks’ head coach Bill Self admitted that he was very impressed with what the freshman point guard has accomplished.
“I think that they’re a little bit different now in large part because (Lamonte) Turner’s not going to play,” Self said after Kansas escaped Tennessee. “Then they’ve gone through some rocky times. But in league play, after they’ve gotten the kid (Vescovi) eligible, they’ve been — what, 4-2 coming into this game? And today they played good enough. They could have won the game, you know, if they’d had a few breaks late.”
Vescovi added nine points, three assists and five rebounds on Saturday against the Jayhawks. His time in Knoxville so far has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, as you would expect from a kid learning the system on the fly. But there’s no doubt that he’s been a spark for the Volunteers, revving up an offense that desperately needed help.
“They’re relying on a guy that’s going to be terrific,” Self said. “And he played pretty well today, obviously. That was in high school like three weeks ago, and now you’re asking him to run your team. So I would think the trajectory on them would definitely be an upward one, just because that’s an awful lot to ask a young kid, and he’s doing so well doing it already. So what’s he going to be like a month from now?”
Tennessee and Rick Barnes have a little over a month to shift gears and start picking up some big wins if they want to make the NCAA Tournament field. The last three games have been very positive though, and Vescovi can still take the Volunteers to another level once he settles in even more.