No. 8 Tennessee romps past Austin Peay in final SEC tune-up

December 22, 2022 GMT
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Tennessee forward Julian Phillips dunks during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Austin Peay, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
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Tennessee forward Julian Phillips dunks during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Austin Peay, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Olivier Nkamhoua scored 20 points to lead No. 8 Tennessee to an 86-44 victory over Austin Peay on Wednesday night.

Santiago Vescovi had 18 points, shooting 5 for 5 on 3-pointers, and Jonas Aidoo set a career high with 10 points and matched his career best with nine rebounds as the Volunteers (10-2) cruised in their final tune-up before the start of Southeastern Conference play next week.

“I’m proud of the maturity our guys showed,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “This time of year, if you’re not focused, everyone can play (and upsets can happen).”

Vescovi missed two games with a shoulder injury. Since then, in a win over Maryland and loss to Arizona, he had struggled, going 2 of 16 from 3-point distance.

“If you’re a shooter, confidence is something you can’t lose,” Vescovi said. “I know what I can do.”

Tennessee freshman Tobe Awaka pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds.

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“Rebounding is in his DNA,” Barnes said. “His want-to makes the difference.”

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Awaka sees it the same way.

“It’s 80% the will to get (the rebound),” he said. “You want the ball more than your opponent.”

The Governors (6-7) were led by Sean Durugordon and Elijah Hutchins-Everett with 11 points each.

Austin Peay became the ninth Tennessee opponent to be held under 50 points. The Governors managed only 26% shooting from the field (14 of 55) and 19% from 3-point range (5 of 26).

“We set our goals,” Barnes said. “We want to make every possession count. We want to defend without fouling people.”

It took Austin Peay nearly nine minutes to make its first field goal. The Governors missed their first nine shots and committed eight turnovers before Jalen Ware scored with 11:04 remaining in the first half.

Nkamhoua and Vescovi had 12 points apiece as the Vols led 52-22 at the break.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee slipped two spots in the AP Top 25 after losing at Arizona last weekend. The Vols will likely begin their conference grind next week in the top 10.

BIG PICTURE

Austin Peay: After a three-game winning streak, the Governors have lost two in a row. … Starting this season, Austin Peay (from Clarksville, Tenn.) has left the Ohio Valley Conference and is now competing in the Atlantic Sun Conference. … Governors second-year coach Nate James spent 12 years as an assistant for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

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Tennessee: The Vols have won 23 straight games at Thompson-Boling Arena. … Getting Josiah-Jordan James back in the lineup in time for the SEC season is a primary objective for Tennessee. He has missed most of the season with soreness in his knee following offseason surgery. … Tennessee owns the best 3-point defense (.202) in the country and second-best field goal defense (.336).

UP NEXT

Austin Peay: The Governors play their first Atlantic Sun Conference game Dec. 29 on the road against Queens University in Charlotte, N.C.

Tennessee: Will begin SEC competition next Wednesday at Ole Miss.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25