Tennessee ends Kansas’ 17-game win streak dating to last season
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — The Tennessee players proved themselves to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions had little chance to feel comfortable.
It was all enough to give the No. 22 Volunteers their own title, along with the blueprint coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow for the rest of the year.
Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee went 64-50 against third-ranked Kansas in Friday night’s championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, ending the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.
Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as tournament MVP for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover problems and got the Jayhawks working for a clean look. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without top scorer Josiah-Jordan James (pained knee).
Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, wore sunglasses to the post-game press conference after the volunteers danced and roared through the trophy ceremony on the pitch.
“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, you have no chance of winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding, “We just like playing in defense and we’re just good at it.”
The Vols kept the Jayhawks at 32.1% shooting and bothered them with size and length on the edge. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler up front, up to him refusing to let off a jump ball and speaking to 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.
Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark and take Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed up with another big from the right wing at 4:42 left after Kansas closed within 11.
Wilson and Joseph Yesufu each scored 14 points and led the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an overall tough night, from losing starting supervisor Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes remaining to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).
“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and harder,” said Kansas coach Bill Self.
The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First there was a battle to the last minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win over Wisconsin after a last-second putback by Bobby Pettiford Jr. But they never looked in any sort of offensive flow this time around with their smaller lineup.
“I feel like if we had been able to get them out of position and not just leave them there waiting to make a layup, that would have given us a better chance of going on the edge,” said Wilson.
Aside from Harris’ foul problems, the Jayhawks played most of the time without Pettiford, who grabbed his right leg midway through the first half.
Afterwards, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.
The Volunteers opened the tournament by beating Butler and then prevailed in Thursday’s semifinals by beating USC in overtime. This time, Tennessee was up front in three attempts at the Atlantis Resort all the way to their first title.
“I think the most important thing all week was to stick together in difficult times, you have to do that,” said Vescovi.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/35109771/tennessee-wins-atlantis-title-ends-kansas-win-streak-17-straight Tennessee ends Kansas’ 17-game win streak dating to last season