INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Santiago Vescovi scored 18 points and Tennessee pounded Longwood 88-56 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, showing exactly why it felt it deserved better than a No. 3 seed.
The Volunteers (27-7) shot 60% from the field and had four players score in double figures. The runaway victory came just four days after the school won the Southeastern Conference Tournament for its first conference tourney crown in 43 years.
Even after the SEC run, Tennessee was placed on the No. 3 line in the South Region. Vescovi and company are well on their way to proving they should have received a higher spot.
Josiah-Jordan James added 17 points, and John Fulkerson scored 15 on 7-for-8 shooting. Kennedy Chandler had 13 and Zakai Ziegler finished with 10.
Next up for the Vols is 11th-seeded Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines beat sixth-seeded Colorado State 75-63 in Thursday’s first game in Indianapolis.
No. 14 seed Longwood, the Big South champs from the tiny town of Farmville, Virginia, was led by Justin Hill with 13 points in the school’s first NCAA tourney appearance. DeShaun Wade had 10 as the Lancers’ eight-game winning streak ended. Longwood had won 18 of their previous 19.
Following a sluggish start for Tennessee, the Lancers were overwhelmed by a bigger, stronger opponent, playing in front of a crowd largely dressed in bright orange.
Longwood, trailing 17-15 with 11:15 left in the first half, fell off the pace quickly when the Volunteers went on a 10-2 run to break open a game that was never the same.
Tennessee spent the rest of the half pulling away, scoring the final 13 points to make it 54-29 at the break.
Longwood never made it close in the second half, as Tennessee finished with its highest tourney scoring total in regulation since a 121-86 first-round victory over Long Beach State in 2007.
Longwood: Coach Griff Aldrich and his players weren’t awestruck by the prospect of facing the SEC’s top team. But on the court, they couldn’t make it close. Clearly, Aldrich has this program heading in the right direction — especially if they build on this historic run.
Tennessee: The Volunteers have reached the second weekend of tourney play in five of their last nine tourney appearances. Another regional semifinal trip won’t suffice, though. Tennessee has only reached the Elite Eight once in school history and it hopes to change that just as quickly as it did with the conference tourney title drought.
Longwood: Will use this offseason to reflect on its achievements and how to keep improving.
Tennessee: Needs a win over the Wolverines to reach the South Region semis in San Antonio, Texas.