Tennessee basketball: Three takeaways from Vols’ 86-44 win vs. Austin Peay

There was no lack of focus for Tennessee basketball in their final game before Christmas. One day after three ranked teams lost to unranked teams, the Vols came out and rebounded from their tough loss at the Arizona Wildcats Saturday by dominating in front of their home crowd.

UT, ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll and No. 11 in the Coaches Poll, blew out the Austin Peay Governors 86-44. Rick Barnes’ team went on an 18-0 run after the score was tied at 2-2 and never looked back. They won the first half by 30 and continued their dominance in the second half.

With the win, the Vols improve to 10-2 and will begin SEC play in a week at home against the Ole Miss Rebels. Austin Peay falls to 6-7 and begins ASUN play a week from Thursday at the Queen Royals. Here are three things we learned from Tennessee basketball’s victory.

1. Post game was unstoppable.

It should have been given the Vols’ size advantage and the fact that Austin Peay was missing some people, and it was. UT made the most of their dominance down low. The Vols outrebounded Austin Peay 47-26. Starring for them was Olivier Nkamhoua, who led the team with 20 points.  Nkamhoua also had five rebounds and five assists.

Uros Plavsic had six points, three assists and three boards. Off the bench, Tobe Awaka had 11 boards, and Jonas Aidoo had 10 points and nine boards. Jahmai Mashack had five points, five assists and five boards. Dominant post play is why Nkamhoua and Mashack each had five dishes, as did Santiago Vescovi and Tyreke Key. The team had 27 as a whole.

2. Santiago Vescovi’s shot returned.

He had been in a slump for a while, but Tennessee basketball finally got what it has been waiting for from Santiago Vescovi Wednesday night. The Vols were 8-of-18 from three as a team, but that’s because Vescovi was a perfect 5-of-5 en route to 18 points on the night.

Vescovi did miss one free throw, but outside of that, he was nearly perfect. Key helped by going 2-of-5 from three and scoring eight points, but Vescovi was the star in the backcourt, especially with Zakai Zeigler, who had three assists, having an off-night. With Josiah-Jordan James still out, Vescovi had to step up, and he did.

3. Defense continues to dominate.

Post play and shooting can lead the offense, but defense is still the story of the Vols. In that 20-2 start, Austin Peay’s only points were free throws. They didn’t hit their first field goal until less than 12 minutes to go in the first half, and Rocky Top kept the pressure on them throughout the game.

Vescovi had three steals. Mashack had three off the bench. Nkamhoua had two. He didn’t shoot well, but Zeigler had a steal and a block in the game. Aidoo had one of each as well, and Julian Phillips, who had nine points and five rebounds, also had a block. Simply put, Tennessee basketball won with defense.