First Round Preview: #13 Chattanooga Vs. #4 Illinois
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Longwood hung with Tennessee for 10 minutes Thursday afternoon at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Then the Vols unleashed a dominant three-point shooting barrage to blow past the Lancers, 88-56.
Here’s three quick takeaways.
Fulkerson Gets Tennessee Going
John Fulkerson missed last year’s NCAA Tournament while dealing with a concussion. It’s safe to say Fulkerson was ready to get his shot again.
The super-senior had played in a number of NCAA Tournament games in his Tennessee career, but never as more than a fringe rotation piece.
He made the most of his first big-time NCAA Tournament opportunity, scoring six of Tennessee’s first eight points despite coming off the bench.
Longwood doesn’t play a single player taller than 6-foot-7 and it seemed inevitable that one of Tennessee’s big men would have a strong offensive presence.
Fulkerson proved to be that guy, scoring 15 points on seven-of-eight shooting from the field. The Kingsport native also added two rebounds and two assists .
The super-senior’s performance means next to nothing when looking at the rest of the tournament, but it helped the Vols settle into the game as their perimeter shooting struggled.
That wouldn’t last long.
Tennessee Shoots Longwood Out Of Gym To End First Half
Tennessee hadn’t hit a three-pointer nine minutes into its Round of 64 matchup with Longwood. The Vols were scoring at a strong clip, but Longwood limited Tennessee’s looks from three-point range and scored well enough to stay within two points.
That’s when Kennedy Chandler drilled Tennessee’s first triple. That sparked a 12-2 Tennessee run as the Vols’ turned Longwood over, got into transition and scored in the midrange.
From there, Longwood’s offense got going again but they couldn’t come close to slowing down Tennessee.
Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James made seven three-pointers in the final 5:48 of the first half as Tennessee opened up its lead.
The Lancers lost Vescovi for his first couple triples — an unforgivable mistake against the sharpshooter — and once he got going he through them in from Carmel.
That, as well as John Fulkerson’s first half success, opened up driving lanes and kick opportunities for Tennessee’s point guards.
That’s how James got his open looks from deep. He didn’t miss them either, going three-of-four from deep in the first half. His final triple — as the first half expired — gave Tennessee an 25-point lead heading into the locker room.
Tennessee started the first half one-of-five from three-point range before closing it seven-of-eight. Longwood never recovered as the Vols coasted to the Round of 32.
Vols Turn Longwood Over, Run Them Off Three-Point Line
Longwood is a top 10 three-point shooting team and it was clear that Tennessee got the scouting report.
The Vols did everything they could to make Longwood’s guards uncomfortable with the ball off the dribble and to run them off the three-point line. The Lancers shot just nine first half triples before finishing with 22 thanks to their second half desperation efforts.
That’s right below the Lancers’ season average.
Tennessee made them difficult shots too, as Longwood shot 32% from three-point range.
Isaiah Wilkins and DeShaun Wade are both over 40% three-point shooters on the season. They combined to shoot three-of-11 as Vescovi and James made them uncomfortable.
Making Longwood’s guards uncomfortable is something Tennessee frequently did Thursday. The Vols recorded nine steals while forcing 16 turnovers — 11 of which came in the first half as Tennessee opened up its lead.