By: John Dunn
The All Vol Call in Show
Tennessee men’s basketball hadn’t quite got off to the start they wanted for the 2019-2020 season.
Sitting at 8-4 a head-to-head match up with LSU and a lingering taste for revenge fueled the Vols‘ fight against the Tigers.
Freshman transfer guard Santiago Vescovi made his debut for Tennessee during this game. He actually started in only his fourth day with the team.
Vescovi showed flashes of offensive potential by connecting on a multitude of threes coupled with a handful of finesse passes, but the nerves in his debut game were evident as he was targeted by the Tigers all afternoon and forced into multiple turnovers.
Vescovi being a natural point guard allowed him to fit into the system immediately. After two “green horn” turnovers, Vescov’s career as a Vol got off to a good start.
With LSU leading 7-4, Vescovi connected on two back-to-back three pointers and assisted on an alley oop to John Fulkerson put the Vols on an 8-0 run, which allowed them to regain the lead at 12-7.
Josiah James then got in in the action with a three point of his own, extending the Vols’ lead to 15-7.
Tennessee’s lead grew to 20-11 before LSU went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead back to four points at 20-16.
The Tigers put a lot of pressure on Vescovi early on.
After LSU drew the score back to within two points at 20-18 with 11:13 remaining in the first half, Yves Pons connected on a trey, extending the Tennessee lead to 23-18 with under 10 minutes remaining.
The Tigers added a three pointer to stay within one possession before the Vols extended it back to a five-point margin at 26-21 behind another three-pointer from Pons, his second of the half.
James connected on the Vols’ seventh three of the half to bring the score to 29-21 before LSU answered with a 5-0 run, drawing the score back to within a single possession at 29-26 with 5:36 remaining in the first half.
Jordan Bowden got a friendly roll on a three pointer on the ensuing possession to halt the LSU run and gave the Vols a six point advantage at 32-26 with just under five minutes remaining in the first half.
The threes continued to fall on the Summitt as the Tigers struck again from deep, bringing the score back to 32-29 in favor of the home team.
After a no-call, on what appeared to be a charge, LSU drew to within one point on a pair of free throws.
Vescovi then delivered his third three-pointer of the half, Tennessee’s eighth, extending the lead to 35-31. Pons then connected on an eight-foot jumper to beat the shot clock, giving Tennessee a 37-31 lead with under two minutes remaining in the half.
LSU then drove the length of the court for an emphatic dunk by Mays, drawing back to within four points at 37-33 with 1:15 remaining.
Vescovi had his fifth turnover of the half in his debut game before a quick sideline meeting with coach Barnes.
A pair of LSU free throws saw the Tigers come back to within two points at 37-35 with under a minute remaining before regaining the lead on a Smart three-pointer, their first advantage since leading 7-4 early in the game.
The 7-0 Tiger run to close out the half allowed LSU to hold onto a slim 38-37 lead heading into the locker room at the half.
As play resumed in the second half, Tennessee regained the lead with a friendly roll on an eight-foot jumper by Pons, 39-38.
The Tigers regained the lead on a lay up, 40-39. The Vols failed to beat the shot clock on the following possession, allowing LSU the opportunity to extend their lead to 42-39 on a baseline jump shot.
Vescovi dropped off a beautiful pass to Pons beneath the rim, leading to an emphatic dunk that drew the Vols back to within one point, 42-41.
LSU answered with a huge dunk from Williams to extend their lead to 44-41 with 14:30 remaining in the game.
Fulkerson then answered with an intense dunk of his own, bringing Tennessee back to within one.
LSU then connected on a three, forced a turnover and then followed with a lay up to give themselves their largest lead of the game at 49-43.
LSU continued to rebound well offensively and added another lay up, putting them on their third 7-0 run of the game before Pons connected on a three pointer to halt the run.
The Tigers added another three from Smart and the Vols added another from Vescovi before yet another three by LSU allowed the Tigers to hold an eight point advantage at 57-49 with 12:20 remaining.
Smart then added another short basket to extend the Tiger lead to 10, at 59-49.
The Vols finally made their first trip to the charity stripe with 11:15 remaining in the game after Pons grabbed an offensive rebound off of a Bowden missed three-pointer.
Pons connected on one of two free throws, bringing the score to 59-50 with under 11 minutes remaining.
Without Fulkerson on the floor, and Bowden struggling offensively, the Vols went to a “small-ball” line up, inserting Jalen Johnson.
Johnson saved a ball from going out of bounds, allowing Oliver to connect on a lay up, drawing back to within seven at 59-52. The Tigers added deuce from Williams, retaking a nine point lead at 61-52.
LSU continued to grab offensive rebounds, allowing them to extend the lead to 63-51 before Oliver added a basket on a Vescovi pass. LSU answered, keeping the lead at 11, 65-54.
Tennessee came down with an offensive rebound allowing Vescovi to deliver another three pointer. The Tigers‘ lead was cut to 65-57.
Watford connected on a free throw, giving LSU a nine point lead before Pons was sent to the the line for Tennessee, missing the front end of a one-and-one.
With the Tigers leading 66-57 with just over four minutes, LSU hit another three pointer to extend their lead, followed with a steal turned into a dunk and a further extension of the lead at 71-57.
Coming out of a media timeout, Vescovi delivered his sixth three-pointer of the game, cutting the lead back to 11, 71-60.
LSU added seven more points, while limiting the Vols to four, allowing them to post a 14-point victory at 78-64.
Although his debut wasn’t “perfect” by definition, Vescovi showed that he has the capability to be a very big time player for Tennessee.
Being “thrown into the fire” may prove to be beneficial down the line.
For a player that has only been a part of his team for four days, his insertion into the line-up appeared seamless and effective.