Vols throttle Austin Peay, 86-44, win is Barnes’ 100th victory in Knoxville

Published 3:54 pm Friday, December 30, 2022

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In its final game before conference play and the holiday break, eighth-ranked Tennessee downed Austin Peay, 86-44, Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The victory marked a historic one for coach Rick Barnes, who logged his 100th home win at Thompson-Boling Arena, in his eighth season, while Tennessee (10-2) polished off an undefeated 2022 calendar year at home, going 12-0 on Rocky Top between last season and the current one.

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The Volunteers dominated at both ends of the floor Wednesday, shooting 36-of-64 from the field (56.3 percent) and 8-of-18 from 3-point range (44.4 percent), marking their highest field-goal percentage of the season and the tying for the best 3-point percentage in a game this year.

Seniors Santiago Vescovi and Olivier Nkamhoua played massive roles in the offensive extravaganza. Nkamhoua led the squad with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, while Vescovi went a perfect 5-of-5 on 3-pointers and totaled 18 points. The perfect clip from deep made Vescovi the 10th player in program history with a perfect single-game 3-point percentage on at least five tries.

Nkamhoua has been in a groove in the scoring department of late. He has finished in double figures in five of the last six games and is averaging 14.2 points per game during that stretch. He finished with 20-points or more for the second time this season, also doing so against Alcorn State on Dec. 4.

Sophomore forward Jonas Aidoo also had a strong night, scoring in double figures for the first time in his career with 10 points. He also added nine rebounds, tying a career-high for the third time this season. The glass was manned with authority by true freshman Tobe Awaka, who pulled in 11 boards. The hulking forward led the squad in rebounds for the first time in his young career, and it was his first game with double-digit rebounds.

Austin Peay was led on offense by Sean Durugordon and Elijah Hutchins-Everett, who each finished with 11 points. The Governors finished shooting just 25.5 percent (14-of-55) from the floor and 19.2 percent (5-of-26) from beyond the arc, continuing the trend of opposing offenses stifled by the Vols.

The Vols forced 15 APSU turnovers and poked away 11 steals. Vescovi and Jahmai Mashack tied for the team lead with three steals each.

The Vols started hot on the offensive end, knocking down six shots before the first media timeout and taking a 12-2 lead early. Nkamhoua was dialed in from the jump, knocking down three perfect mid-range jumpers and kickstarting UT’s scoring.

Tennessee did not allow an APSU field goal for the first nine minutes of the game and forced eight Austin Peay turnovers during that span, just one less than the amount of missed shots by the Governors (9). In the early stages of the game, the Vols rattled off an 18-0 run, but none of the early offense came from deep as Vescovi drained UT’s first 3-pointer 11:13 into the contest. Then the deep ball started to rain. Tennessee finished the half sinking 6-of-7 from beyond the arc and took a 52-22 lead into the break. Those 52 points marked Tennessee’s highest output in a first half all season and tied the team’s most points scored in a half all season.

Austin Peay was locked down in the second half by Tennessee’s stout defense. The Govs made just five field goals in the period, going 5-of-27 from the floor for just 18.5 percent. Moving efficiently off the ball, the Vols logged assists on 12 of their 14 field goals in the final 20 minutes and finished with a 34-22 margin in the second half of play to cap off the 86-44 victory.

Tennessee kicks off SEC play by taking to the road to face Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, on Wednesday, Dec. 28. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network and tips off at 5 p.m.