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Vol hoops wins second consecutive game against Lithuania's U21 team, 116-90

The Vols win their first two games of their overseas exhibition trip

After dismantling Lithuania’s U21 team yesterday, 97-57, the Vols took game two today by a comfortable but a bit tighter 26-point victory.

Tennessee continued to spread around the scoring, with seven players going for double figures. Santiago Vescovi and transfer Dalton Knecht tied for the team-lead in points with 19 each.

Associate Head Coach Justin Gainey, who’s coached the last two games, is definitely using this European exhibition tour to finagle with the lineups, as Jordan Gainey, Vescovi, DJ Jefferson, Josiah-Jordan James and Tobe Awaka started today. While yesterday, Freddie Dilione, Jonas Aidoo and Jahmai Mashack started and Gainey, Jefferson and Awaka came off the bench.

Today’s starters didn’t immediately fare quite as well as yesterday’s, as the Lithuanians were down by just three points, 12-9, with fewer than five minutes left in the first quarter after a Dilione drive and dish to JP Estrella was fumbled and laid up on the other end.

Lithuania cut the Vols lead to one point after a post-up layup, while Tennessee went right back down the floor and turned the ball over again.

Tennessee’s defense forced its own turnover, and a Gainey 3 stretched the Vols’ lead back out to four points just under the four-minute mark of the first period. Gainey’s scoring from deep has been a theme in the Vols’ first two games — he went 4-10 yesterday from deep and added 13 points in 23-ish minutes, while today he finished with another 13 points going 2-2 from three-point range and 3-3 from the free-throw line.

A Santi three-ball made it an 18-13 game with two minutes left in the first quarter, and despite ugly turnovers early and likely tired legs, the Vols played a lot of small ball, stretched the floor and used the last minute or so of the first quarter to start pulling away.

Five straight points on a James turn-around mid-range jumper and another Vescovi 3 made it 25-15 with 35 seconds left in Q1.

The Vols finished the period with a Dilione/ Mashack sort of ghost pick and pop, but Dilione missed a step-back eight-footer in the lane. Awaka got the offensive board and put-back jump hook before the buzzer sounded making it a 27-15 game. Tennessee’s sophomore post player finished the contest’s first 10-minute quarter tied with Vescovi as the Vols’ leading scorers with eight points each.

Knecht looked like, as the kids say, him, again, as today’s win made it the second game in a row in which he led or tied for the team’s leading scorer. He had 14 points and four 3s yesterday, and then he drilled four more triples en route to his 19 points today. He averaged 20 points a game and shot 38 percent from deep last year on more than six attempts from deep per-contest, but coming from Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference — how can we know how much of that ability will transfer to the SEC? I’ve been admittedly a bit skeptical, but there’s no doubt he’s powered the offense through these first two games in Italy. It’s going to be exciting to watch how the gravity of his shot making opens up the floor offensively.

Overall, Tennessee hit 43 percent of its 16 3s, with nine coming from Knecht and Vescovi. We saw a lot of Dilione at point guard again today, allowing Vescovi to play off the ball and accentuate his ability to score. Dilione ended up as one of two Vols who ended the game with a double-double, as he racked up 10 points and 10 assists, while Aidoo had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Awaka ended the game with 16 points, too, and literally didn’t miss a shot. His 5-5 performance from the field is nice, but he also hit all six of his free-throw attempts. He’s already got such an uncanny ability for a young player to find the ball off the rim, especially on the offensive glass, if he can improve on his 46-percent free-throw shooting figure from last season, he’ll be an absolute monster for opposing post players to deal with.

The Vols hit 20 of the 21 total shots from the free-throw line — certainly a welcome sight after hitting 70 percent of their free throws last year, which ranked them 220th in the NCAA.

James had 10 points and five boards, which rounded out the seven double-figure scorers for Tennessee.

The Vols leave Florence 2-0 and will finish off their Italian exhibition trip Monday against A.S. Stella Azzurra in Rome at 1:30 PM EST.