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HOOPS RECAP: Vols impeach Governors of Austin Peay with 86-44 thumping behind Santi’s shooting, Nkamhoua’s 20

Tennessee gets back in the win column before SEC play starts after Christmas

NCAA Basketball: Austin Peay at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee thumped Austin-Peay, 86-44, thanks to 20 points from Olivier Nkamhoua, a 5-5 effort from beyond the arc from Santi Vescovi and a 50-point first-half scoring output,

Seven of the Vol’s first 10 made shots were layups, and UT scored 32 of its 52 first-half points in the paint. But against an inferior opponent, the Vols’ outside shooting seemed to find its groove, too.

Vescovi, who was in the midst of a 2-16 shooting slump over his last two games, hit all four of the triples he attempted in the first half. Overall, Tennessee hit six of its 11 tries from deep, with Jahmai Mashack and Tyreke Key each nailing one triple a piece.

The defense held Austin Peay to 32-percent shooting in the first half, turned over the Govenors 10 times and translated those 10 giveaways into 12 points.

Nkamhoua played well against Arizona, but its sorta been a theme with him during his career that he has better games against worse teams. That sentiment held true in the first half against AP, as he tied Santi for the team lead with 12 points on 4-6 shooting from the field and added a team-high four assists.

Jonas Aidoo was effective during his 11 first-half minutes by hitting four of his five shot attempts and leading the team with six boards. And one last first-half note — Tobe Awaka continues to be efficient and effective when he’s on the floor. He played just six minutes but scored four points and four rebounds, while Uros Plavsic had two points and no boards in his nine first-half minutes.

With a 52-22 lead at halftime, Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes went into the second half by trying to run some offensive plays through Julian Phillips, who scored a combined eight points against Maryland and Arizona. Tennessee’s prized freshman didn’t score a point in five minutes but recorded two fouls. But in the second half, Phillips scored five points on an and-one layup and another drive that netted him two more made free throws within the first five-ish minutes of the second period.

Nkamhoua consistently found himself with the ball at the rim in the second half and scored six points on three layups from the 14-minute mark to the 12-minute mark. Two of those three layups came via steals by the Tennessee defense — one from Zakai Ziegler and one from Aidoo.

Up 72-32 (that’s 40 points for you fellow mathematically-challenged folks) with 11-ish minutes left, Key made his second three of the night and then picked up a foul trying to make a steal in the backcourt. That’s the kinda effort defensively that gives this team a chance to make a run in March. It ended up as a foul — I get that, but it also counted as a deflection and is just sorta a microcosm of this team’s demeanor.

With 7:25 left in the game, Vescovi drilled his fifth 3 in five tries, which put the Vols up 80-37, and that triple was followed with two more looks at the rim... another Awaka layup and a Plavsic dunk. Yes — Uros dunked the ball. Is Venus is retrograde? Is the end of days upon us? Hug your loved ones — our time here may be short.

With 2:10 remaining, Phillips put an exclamation point on the game when a ball got loose on the defensive end, he collected it and took it the length of the floor for a powerful dunk.


  • Tennessee had three players score in double figures: Nkamhoua (20), Vescovi (18) and Aidoo (10)
  • Vescovi had three steals tonight, and before the game, he ranked 22nd in the country with a 2.44 per-game average
  • It’s difficult to overstate how efficient Tennessee’s young post players were. Awaka scored six points on 3-5 shooting and led the team with 11 rebounds (four offensive) in just 16 minutes. Aidoo had 10 points on 5-7 from the field and added nine rebounds and one block in 19 minutes. Nkamhoua isn’t young anymore, but his 20 points on 9-11 shooting can’t be ignored. Plus, he added five boards, five assists and two steals
  • This game marked the eighth time this season Tennessee's defense has held its opponent below 50 points
  • Though Ziegler didn’t do much scoring, just four points on 2-6 shooting, he ld the team in plus/ minus at +44
  • Freshman guard BJ Edwards officially logged seven minutes of playing time, but he went 0-1 from the field and was pulled from the game following his one and only turnover of the game
  • The Vols got 25 points from its bench, scored 56 points in the paint, hit 18 of their 27 layups and posted a 1.3 points per-possession figure in the win
  • Tennessee only got to the free-throw line 12 times tonight and hit six of them. But there’s no question this squad has got to get back to its early-season, free-throw generating form.