KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee freshman Santiago Vescovi logged season-highs with 20 points and eight assists Tuesday as the Vols limited Arkansas to its fewest points in SEC play this season and posted a convincing 82-61 victory on Tuesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.
The bounce-back win for Tennessee (14-10, 6-5 SEC) saw five Vols score in double digits, with Jordan Bowden tallying 16 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Jimmy Whitt Jr. led the Razorbacks with 19 points on the night.
Entering Tuesday’s clash, Arkansas averaged a conference-low 10 turnovers per game in SEC play. The Vols logged 14 takeaways in the victory.
Prior to the game, Arkansas’ seven losses on the season were by a combined 32 points. The 21-point drubbing marked the Razorbacks’ first double-digit loss of the year. They were one of nine teams in the nation to have not suffered a 10+ point loss coming into Tuesday night.
The Big Orange lit up the nation’s top 3-point defense, connecting on 37.5 percent of their 3-point attempts. It served as the the best shooting percentage from the perimeter against the Hogs this season. The Razorbacks entered the game limiting opponents to just 24.6 percent from 3-point range.
Bowden improved to 10th on Tennessee’s all-time 3-point list (173 career makes), knocking down a triple within the game’s first minute. He would score five of the Vols’ first eight points.
Freshman Davonte Gaines energized the Tennessee defense with two steals, a block and a drawn charge early in the contest.
During an 8-0 run by the Vols, highlighted by a nifty finger roll by Vescovi, the Razorbacks went nearly six first-half minutes without a point, turning the ball over six times in that span.
A corner triple from Vescovi’s hot hand extended the Tennessee lead to 15 points with just over six minutes remaining in the opening half. The freshman led all scorers with 13 points at the break.
Tennessee’s suffocating defense surrendered a mere 23 first-half points to the Razorbacks, Arkansas’ fewest points in a first half this season.
In the opening stanza, the Big Orange shot 47.8 percent from the floor while connecting on 11 of 23 field goals, including a 4-of-8 clip from beyond the 3-point arc. UT also went 14 of 18 from the free-throw line in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Tennessee redshirt junior Jalen Johnson recorded his first career start in the win, his 63rd appearance in a Vol uniform. His steal and dunk early in the second half set the tone for the remainder of the contest.
Tennessee swiftly halted a brief 6-2 run by Arkansas, responding with a commanding 17-5 run of their own in the second half.
SEC Defensive Player of the Year candidate Yves Pons converted a four-point play with 10 minutes to go in regulation, increasing Tennessee’s lead to 63-38. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds and a block.
Two authoritative dunks by Pons as time wound down put an exclamation point on the dominant victory. Vescovi’s two made free throws with less than two minutes remaining sealed his career outing.
Chef Santi: Santiago Vescovi seasoned his season-high 20 points by cooking up eight assists, his most since arriving on Rocky Top.
Stifling Defense by Gaines: Tennessee true freshman Davonte Gaines grabbed a career-high seven rebounds, five on the defensive end, to go along with three steals and one rejection.
Le Streak Continues: Yves Pons finished the night with one block, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least one blocked shot to 24.
Up Next: The Vols go on the road to Columbia, South Carolina, for an SEC clash with the Gamecocks on Saturday night. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. ET on SEC Network.