Both teams grappled in the early stages of the first half to find their rhythms, but it was ultimately Villanova who settled in first. The Wildcats took an early advantage into the halftime locker room and never looked back.
Playing their first game away from home, Tennessee put up their worst performance in years, mustering up just 53 total points. The Volunteers had 18 total turnovers, including three from their superstar freshman Kennedy Chandler, who scrapped together only six points, all of which came in the second half. With all of that being said, Tennessee will be just fine. Rick Barnes’ Vols were picked fourth in the SEC’s preseason poll and for good reason. This game will be used as a learning experience and will only strengthen the program going forward. The Volunteers will have no time to dwell on this loss either, as they take on a very tough North Carolina team in the consolation game in a little under 24 hours.
As for Villanova, a lot of questions were answered in this contest. It remains to be seen if the defensive efforts were truly amplified, or if Tennessee was really just that off tonight. Whatever the case may be, 53 points is the least amount of points allowed in a game in just under a calendar year, dating back to a December 1st matchup with Hartford. In order to win this game Villanova would have to control the paint and that is exactly what they did, out-rebounding the Vols by a margin of 41-28. That tally is certainly a good sign going forward for Eric Dixon and the ‘Cats. Villanova was led in this game by a trio of upperclassmen in Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Brandon Slater all tallying 14 points respectively. Justin Moore added 13 points, 7 rebound and 6 assists, all while dealing with early foul trouble.
Up next with the Wildcats will be another top six matchup, this time with the Boilermakers of Purdue. This game is going to be an extremely tough matchup for the Wildcats, as Purdue boasts one of the tallest and most physically imposing rosters in the country. The Boilermakers are coming off a quality win against a very good North Carolina team and will look to keep the momentum rolling into Sunday. For Villanova to come away victorious, they will need to hit their open looks, limit turnovers, and play within themselves. There is little chance that the ‘Cats will win the battle in the paint, so they will need to dominate the other facets of the game in order to compete with this tough Purdue squad.
Catch the championship game of the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament on Sunday. November 21st, 2021 at 1:00pm Eastern on ABC.