Vols win one, lose two in Hawaii tournament

Marvin Westwestwords

The Maui Invitational, relocated to Honolulu because of wildfire devastation, provided comparable scenery, wonderful waves crashing into rocky shorelines and fabulous fashion reviews.

That is code for six styles of bikinis.

The Maui Invitational didn’t do much for the Tennessee basketball road record. The Volunteers defeated Syracuse (73-56) but lost to Purdue (71-67) and Kansas (67-61).

The Jayhawks and Boilermakers were 1-2 in the Associated Press poll.

Tennessee did not shoot well, was generally inconsistent on offense but played tough defense against two of the best big men in the college basketball world.

Purdue’s Zach Edey, 7-4 and 300 pounds, reigning consensus national player of the year, had 23 points and 10 rebounds against a hard-working, collapsing defense. He made nine of 17 free throws.

It was a brawl. Fifty-two fouls were called. Seventy-eight free throws were sent toward the basket. If the Boilermakers hadn’t missed 19, think what the score might have been.

A Boilermaker slams into Tennessee’s Josiah-Jordan James during UT’s loss to Purdue

I don’t know how much Dr. Mung Chiang, Purdue president, knows about basketball, but he said the Volunteers are nothing more than a wrestling team that puts opposing players in harm’s way.

“… a wrestling team that fouls 100 percent.”

“Boilermaker student athletes, be safe!” Chiang said.

Strange that others praised the Tennessee defense for fighting a good fight.

Alas and alas, Tobe Awaka did foul out with 3:44 to go. Purdue closed on a 7-2 run after Jonas Aidoo fouled out with 2:24 to play. Rick Barnes got a technical foul for pointing out a call the officials missed. There were others.

Kansas has a superstar in Hunter Dickinson, only 7-1 and 260 but quicker than Edey. Dickinson scored 17 but seized 20 rebounds.

You might remember Dickinson from the 2022 NCAA tournament. He helped send the Vols home. He was then playing for Michigan.

So, why would a really good big man leave the Wolverines for the Jayhawks? The all-American reason, money. He said he received an NIL raise of more than $10,000. He also said Michigan didn’t project as a very good team.

There were some interesting developments in the Syracuse game. The Orange backcourt shot 25.8 percent and Tennessee took charge of the backboards in the second half.

“It starts with the way we prepare and practice,” Josiah-Jordan James said.

He said the Vols were ready for a physical battle.

“And I was really proud of our guys in the way we handled it.”

James had a good game, the sixth double-double of his career — 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting, 12 rebounds, two steals and an assist. His plus/minus was by far the best on the team.

Cramps slowed Tennessee star Dalton Knecht against Syracuse.

Knecht recovered and scored 16 against Purdue. Boilermaker guard Fletcher Loyer tied a career-high with 27 while the Vols focused on Edey. Jordan Gainey got his 15 points in the second half, hitting critical threes that twice tied the game. Purdue owned the final stretch.

In fact, Gainey and Zakai Zeigler shot the Vols out of contention. Gainey was three for 13 and Ziggy was two of 11. He hit one three in seven attempts.

Santiago Vescovi rediscovered his shooting stroke against Kansas. He had struggled for five games but hit eight of 15 (five of 10 threes) and led with 21 points. He also had four rebounds, three assists and a steal. He often leads in hustle.

“I thought he was good,” Barnes said. “Santi is a guy that, I mean, what he does defensively every game, he’ll take on those challenges. And one thing about him, he’s all about winning.”

Some other people did not shoot well. The Vols hit 31percent from the field (21-of-67). Knecht scored 13 on 4-of-16 shooting. JJJ hit one of six.

Barnes’ tournament summation was “disappointed with our inconsistency. We’re just inconsistent. We need to know game to game what we’re going to get.

“This tournament, I think was great for us. There’s no doubt in my mind. I know we’re going to get much, much better as a team. But I also know we’re better than we played. Give Kansas credit. I thought it executed extremely well. I thought their key guys did exactly what you’d expect them to do. We’ve got to get that from our guys.”

Barnes doesn’t really like his three-point game when shots aren’t falling.

“We still need a presence with our post guys. We need those guys to understand we need them. And I don’t want to be a team where we’re making threes, it’s all going great. We’re not, we’re not. Because we’ve got too many different ways.

“We missed too many layups. Way, way (too many) at the rim that we’ve got to make. And it seemed like they made all theirs. And we got to get back to where we can finish those, some way, somehow get to the free-throw line.”

Good idea, Coach. A week to work on that. Tennessee plays at North Carolina in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge next Wednesday. (7:15, ESPN).

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com


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