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Vol hoops game RECAP: Second-half cold streak helps Kansas down Tennessee, 69-60

Hunter Dickinson... again.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational Third Place Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kansas Jayhawks Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports

Despite 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and five 3s from Santiago Vescovi, UT shot just 25-ish percent from the field in the game’s final 20 minutes and allowed Kansas to pull away with a 69-60 win in a game that was tied 35-35 at halftime.

Dalton Knecht and Jordan Gainey both joined Vescovi in double figures for Tennessee, with 13 and 11 points, respectively. But no other Volunteer scored more than Vescovi’s eight points in the second half.

Josiah-Jordan James added just four points on 1-6 shooting, including 0-3 from deep for the game.

Santi’s eight field goals led the way for Tennessee, and no other Vol hit more than four shots. Zakai Zeigler struggled again with zero points on an 0-5 effort from the field while missing all three of his 3-pointers.

Once again, Tennessee had no answer for Hunter Dickinson — Vol fans should remember Dickinson shredding UT in the round of 32 two years ago when he was at Michigan. Dickinson had 27 points and 11 rebounds in that game that sent the 11th-seeded Wolverines to the Sweet 16 and sent the third-seeded Vols home.

For Kansas today, Dickinson scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting and absolutely destroyed the Vols on the boards with 20 rebounds in 30 minutes.

Dickinson had a double-double at halftime with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Jonas Aidoo led the Vols for the game with 11 rebounds in his 26 minutes.

Tennessee hit just six of its 20 layup attempts and scored just 17 points off of 15 Jayhawk turnovers. The Vols allowed Kansas to pour in 40 points in the paint, which is the most UT has allowed since 2021.

TN turned the ball over just six times, which is definitely a plus, and Kansas didn’t hit a field goal for the final 4:20 of the game. But Tennessee just couldn’t hit shots when it needed to, going 10-37 from the field in the final 20 minutes while allowing the Jayhawks to hit 56 percent of their shots in the second half.

Zeigler’s plus-minus was the worst on the team at -19, and the way he’s played so far, perhaps he’s not quite got his legs under him yet. I’m not sure. Tennessee needs his defense, but he’s averaging fewer than five points per-game and is ice-cold from deep. He had two turnovers today with just two assists and no steals.

It’s hard to get a great read in these kinds of early-season tournaments because the games are so bunched together and all the teams are tired, but this is similar to the environment the Vols hope to be in come March. Hopefully these tough, early-season losses will pay dividends later in the year.

Tobe Awaka scored just one point on a made free throw in just five minutes, while Cade Phillips didn’t play and JP Estrella logged just two minutes. Jahmai Mashack played 16 minutes, didn’t score a point and added just two rebounds.

One plus from today — it was nice to see Vescovi finally get going. This was just his second game scoring in double-figures, and it was also just the second time he hit at least one shot from beyond the arc.

The Vols hit their free throws today, but the issue was that they only got to the line for eight attempts, of which they made seven. Tennessee can’t be content to just shoot jump shots. It’s got to find a way to get to the rim and convert.

With the loss to Kansas, Tennessee finished fourth in the tournament and left Hawaii going 1-2. I don’t expect a huge drop in the polls for the Vols, considering the level of competition in the Maui Invitational. UT has a week to get ready to play the North Carolina Tar Heels on November 29th, who are currently 4-0 and ranked 14th in the AP Poll while playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis.