Vols Drop SEC Opener to LSU, 78-64

Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Despite 18 points from Yves Pons and an impressive debut from freshman point guard Santiago Vescovi, Tennessee fell to LSU in its conference opener Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena, 78-64.

After arriving in the United States and joining the team just seven days ago, Vescovi started and scored 18 points on six 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists. Pons also had 18 points, one shy of his career-high. Josiah-Jordan James had a career-high 15 points.

As a team, Tennessee (8-5, 0-1 SEC) made a season-high 13 3-pointers.

LSU (9-4, 1-0 SEC) took a one-point lead into halftime and controlled the game out the gates in the second half. The Tigers scored 21 points in the first eight minutes of the half to Tennessee’s 12, extending their lead to 59-49.

Tennessee cut that lead to seven points, but never drew any closer the rest of the way. A trio of scorers – Javonte Smart (21), Skylar Mays (17) and Trendon Watford (15) – paced LSU in its win.

After trailing for the majority of the opening 20 minutes, LSU regained the lead just before halftime and took a 38-37 advantage into the break.

To start the game, the Tigers claimed a quick 7-2 lead, but Tennessee responded with a 18-4 run that put the Vols in front by nine. After making the start at point guard, Vescovi drained his first two shots – both from beyond the arc. John Fulkerson, making his first career SEC start, had two fast-break alley-oop dunks, while James had eight points during the run.

In the first half as a whole, Tennessee shot 9-for-13 from 3-point range – its most makes in any half this season.

James and Pons both reached double-figure scoring in the first half for the Vols with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Vescovi chipped in nine points behind three made 3-pointers. Jordan Bowden dished out six assists, all in the first 12 minutes of action.

PONS BLOCKS STREAK: Yves Pons blocked three shots, extending his streak to 13 games of recording at least one block. It’s the longest such streak by a Vol since Wayne Chism authored a 14-game streak in 2009-10.

UP NEXT: Tennessee travels west for its first SEC road game of the season, facing Missouri on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on SEC Network.

 

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