Tennessee (4-1) closed out its trip to the Bahamas with a 67-58 win over NC State (5-2) on Friday afternoon to place third in the 2017 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis.
With the third-place finish, Tennessee captured its highest finish in an early-season tournament since finishing third in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2011.
“It’s a nice win for us and we’ll leave here knowing a little bit more about our team, and know we have to get back and get back to our regular routine and go from there,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said following the Vols win.
Once again, sophomore forward Grant Williams led the Vols. Williams had a team-high 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. While Williams stuffed the stat sheet, so did junior Kyle Alexander.
Alexander only had eight points, but he was instrumental in the win. The native of Canada hauled in a career-high 13 rebounds – seven of them on the offensive glass – and blocked four shots. During the tournament, Alexander averaged 8.3 points-per-game and 10.3 rebounds-per-game.
Barnes was pleased with Alexander’s performance as the effort on the offensive glass was a difference in the game. “If you look at it, they outrebounded us – two games in a row that we’ve been outrebounded, but they had 17 offensive rebounds and we had 15 and Kyle had half of them,” Barnes said. “He was big.”
While Alexander’s performance on the boards played a big role in the win, so did Tennessee’s defense. The Vols had 13 steals, forcing NC State to turn the ball over 21 times as the Wolfpack scored a season-low 58 points.
Both teams played sloppy in the first half. Tennessee turned it over 12 times while shooting just 33.7 percent from the floor. Despite shooting poorly, the Vols connected on five 3-pointers which accounted for half of Tennessee’s first half points. At the break, the Vols led 30-23.
In the second half, NC State could never throw the fatal punch. The Wolfpack kept it within striking distance for much of the final period, but behind Williams’ 10 second half points, the Vols would go on to pick up their fourth win of the season.
After a successful Thanksgiving break trip to the Bahamas, Tennessee now returns home to face Mercer on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET.
Photo by Brad Blackwelder