No. 5 Villanova routs No. 17 Tennessee 71-53 in Tip-Off

AP Sports

Villanova’s Brandon Slater (3) looks to pass under pressure from Tennessee’s Olivier Nkamhoua (13) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — The game between Villanova and Tennessee was billed as a classic matchup between the Wildcats veteran leader, Collin Gillespie, and the Volunteers’ young star-of-the-future, Kennedy Chandler.

This one went to the old man.

Gillespie, Jermain Samuels, and Brandon Slater each scored 14 points as No. 5 Villanova eased to a 71-53 win over No. 17 Tennessee on Saturday in the opening round of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.

Justin Moore added 13 points for the Wildcats (3-1), who had a 20-point lead at halftime.

Santiago Vescovi scored 23 points for Tennessee (2-1), which had opened the season with lopsided wins over Tennessee-Martin and East Tennessee. He was the only Volunteer to get to double figures. Chandler was held to six points on 1-of-9 shooting.

“When you’re that guy (Gillespie) they are coming at every night and you’re trying to just lead your team and not get into a one-on-one, that’s a hard thing to do,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

Villanova scored the game’s first nine points, holding Tennessee without a basket for over six minutes. The Volunteers missed their first six shots before Vescovi made a 3-pointer from the right wing.

A dunk from Samuels, who had 11 rebounds, on a lob pass from Justin Moore capped a 14-0 first-half run that pushed the Villanova lead to 33-11. A break-away dunk by Moore just before the halftime buzzer sent the Wildcats into intermission with a 35-15 lead.

Vescovi tried to get the Vols back into the game by himself n the second half, scoring all eight points during a Tennessee run that cut a 22-point deficit to 17. But he picked up his fourth foul a few seconds later and the Wildcats’ lead was never challenged.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: Chandler scored all six of his points in the second half after averaging 18 points, five assists and three rebounds in the Vols wins over Tennessee-Martin and East Tennessee.

“He’s going to learn a lot, I told him that when I took him out,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “I said, ‘I hope you learned a lot today. A lot of the things that you’ve done in the past are not going to happen anymore.’ ”

This was the Vols’ first away game of the season and their first regular-season, neutral-site game since 2019.

Villanova: The Wildcats are now 29-4 n November tournaments over the past decade. They will go for their eighth title over that span on Sunday. … By the end of the weekend, the Wildcats will have played three Top 25 games this season. They fell in overtime to No. 2 UCLA last Friday in Los Angeles, 86-77.

“I hope it helps us in our league play when we get there,” Wright said. ”Number one, our league is really good. Number two, a lot of times we start conference play and we’re not really sure what we are yet. We have an idea, I think, this year, playing these teams, these coaches.”

DEFENSE

Villanova’s defense, which gave up 81 points to Howard, held Tennessee to 19 baskets on 57 attempts (33%). The Wildcats shot just 39% but had 13 points off 18 Tennessee turnovers.

HE SAID IT

Gillespie said he was proud of how hard and physical his team played, winning the rebounding battle (41-39), getting eight steals and scoring 26 points in the paint against the taller Vols.

“That’s something that we pride ourselves on and it’s something that I learned as a freshman from the older guys,” he said. “We learned it from those guys and now we’re in that position.”

UP NEXT:

Villanova plays the winner of the second game Saturday between No. 6 Purdue and No. 18 North Carolina. Tennessee will play in the consolation game later Sunday afternoon.

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