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Tennessee takes down A.S. Stella Azzurra to wrap up Italy trip

Another easy win.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Indianapolis Practice Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s final game in Italy took them to Rome to face professional squad A.S. Stella Azzurra. The Vols picked up two wins over the Lithuanian U21 National Team over the weekend, and looked to stay perfect overseas today.

It was Dalton Knecht getting the Volunteers off and running on Monday night. The Northern Colorado transfer drilled two three-pointers to open Tennessee’s scoring, doing exactly what Rick Barnes brought him here to do.

Jonas Aidoo’s defense was a big problem early on for A.S. Stella Azzura, which allowed the Volunteers to get out to a 12-0 run to open the game. Vescovi hit, Gainey scored five and suddenly the Tennessee lead was 20-2.

In terms of competitiveness, this one was over. But there were still some valuable minutes to be had as Tennessee wrapped up their trip overseas.

Tennessee-A.S. Stella Azzurra Takeaways

  • Knecht is really going to take some pressure off of Vescovi and James. At times last year those guys had to push to try and make something happen, but Knecht offers another big time outlet. He’s got plenty of length to get his shot off, and he’s certainly not shy about firing away. Knecht finished with 19 points on 4-7 shooting from deep. He also made an impact in the paint, using that big 6-6 frame.

Another factor here will be Knecht’s defense, which will likely be a work in progress throughout the year.

  • We saw some of the very best from Santiago Vescovi this week, and that continued on Monday. Vescovi shot 4-9 from three-point range, backing up a 5-7 performance on Saturday. Tennessee is pretty hard to beat when he’s shooting like that, and it’s worth wondering if Knecht’s presence will free him up more this year.
  • Tobe Awaka has taken a step forward — a big one. He looks like he’s going to be a double-double machine for Tennessee as his offensive game has really come along. He scored 16 more points on Monday, matching the output of his fellow big Jonas Aidoo. Tennessee’s frontcourt is thin, but they’ve got two really solid all-around options. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly JP Estrella can come along behind those two.
  • DJ Jefferson is a pretty freaky athlete. We knew that, but seeing it live was impressive. The redshirt freshman jumped nearly over the backboard in a one-handed alley-oop attempt, but couldn’t throw it down. He would eventually get his chance, though.

“He told me to show him something,” Jefferson later said of Coach Barnes. Jefferson sure did that, and he started it with defense. Barnes will love that.

Jefferson ended up with 13 points on 5-10 shooting from the floor.

  • Tennessee appears comfortable with Freddie Dilione running the point, but they were also clearly working to get Jordan Gainey up to speed running the show. The staff knows they can always lean on Vescovi in a pinch, but getting those two ready to roll could potentially be big as the Vols wait on Zakai Zeigler.
  • Dilione struggled for the second straight day shooting, going 0-6 from three-point range.
  • Tennessee went on to win, 97-51. They shot 46 percent from the field and held Stella Azzurra to 28 percent shooting.

Next up for Tennessee will be more sightseeing on Tuesday before heading back to Knoxville. The Volunteers will continue working towards their opener in November. Next on the calendar is an exhibition date with Lenoir-Rhyne on Halloween night.