Sports Journalism Blog

By Derek Harper | @RealDerekHarper

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – Tennessee set several school NCAA tournament records in a 88-56 victory over Longwood at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The third-seeded Volunteers (27-7) advanced to a second-round meeting with Michigan on Saturday.

Tennessee won for the 13th time in 14 games by making 60% of its shots, surpassing the previous school tournament record of 58.9% against Long Beach State in 2007. The Volunteers made 14 of 24 3-point shots, or 58.3%, which broke the school NCAA record of 51.9% in the same game.

Junior guard Santiago Vescovi, who led Tennessee with 18 points, made six of eight 3-point shots to equal the record set twice by Chris Lofton.

The 32-point margin was the second-highest in Tennessee’s tournament history. The Volunteers, in their 24th appearance, improved their tournament record to 23-24. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has a record of 25-25 in tournament games at Providence, Clemson, Texas and Tennessee.

There are only six active NCAA coaches at the Division I level with more wins than Barnes, with 754.

For the Lancers, they entered their first-ever NCAA Tournament game contest on an eight-game winning streak. While it was their first tournament game the Division I one level, they previously made it a total of four times the Division II and III levels.

Tennessee made it clear early on that the Volunteers were the more dominant and heavily favored team. Vescovi, junior guard Josiah-Jordan James and senior forward John Fulkerson helped lead the way.

James made six of nine shots for 17 points. Fulkerson, a graduate student, made seven of eight shots for 15 points, eight above his average. Freshman guard Kennedy Chandler scored 13 points.

Longwood (26-7) committed 16 turnovers leading to 22 Tennessee points. The Volunteers collected six second-chance points, 13 fast break points and 30 points in the paint.

Despite the loss, Longwood made sure to soak in the experience. “I just remember just looking at how big the arena was,” senior DeShaun Wade said, “and there’s people all the way at the top. I was like, ‘Yo, what is this?’ I was looking at the scoreboards, looking at my dad and my mom in the stands and the fans and how many people we’ve just impacted. I was like, man, win, lose or draw it’s just a great season.”

Longwood coach Griff Aldrich emphasized the step that the Lancers had just taken. “You know, at a school like Longwood when you’re a 14 seed, there’s a real balance of having your players really enjoy the moment, and also really preparing,” Aldrich said. “And I hope that we did a good job with that this year with these guys, that they were able to enjoy that experience.”

Aldrich also noted that their goal at Longwood has always been to build a sustainable program to compete for titles every year.

“It’s important for our guys to have a taste of this experience,” Aldrich said. “You know, the second time through is always — always easier. You know, the first time you make it to the dance. The second time, there won’t be as much allure, mostly from y’all. And so that will be okay. That will be fine. So yeah, I think we learned a lot just experientially.”

Vescovi touched on keeping the good vibes for the Volunteers, from winning the Southeastern Conference tournament as well as focusing on what they did against Longwood.

“I think it was a little bit of both,” Vescovi said. “Keeping the good vibes, knowing that what we are doing works.”