Santiago Vescovi had 13 points, three rebounds and three assists to help No. 22 Tennessee pull away in the second half for a 71-45 victory over Butler in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Vescovi and Julian Phillips, who had 11 points and six rebounds, highlighted a balanced effort on the scoresheet for the Volunteers (3-1), who advance to play USC in the tournament semifinals on Thursday afternoon.
Butler (3-2) will take on BYU in the consolation bracket on Thursday night.
Tennessee spread the ball around well and finished with five players scoring nine or more points and seven players scoring six or more. Zakai Zeigler had 10 points, five assists and four rebounds. The Volunteers totaled 16 assists despite turning the ball over 16 times.
Butler wasn’t nearly as careful with the ball as it committed 23 turnovers, which allowed the Volunteers to take control after halftime.
Zeigler and Vescovi each turned up the intensity on the defensive end in the second half and finished with three steals each. Tennessee scored 18 points off those turnovers and outscored Butler 36-14 in the paint.
Jayden Taylor led the Bulldogs with 18 points but was their only player who scored in double figures.
Butler shot only 31.9 percent (15-for-47) from the field and made only 5 of 23 attempts from beyond the arc. The Volunteers also hit five 3-pointers, but were a much more efficient 48.1 percent from the field overall.
Tennessee trailed 23-18 before closing out the first half with 10 consecutive points capped by a Zeigler 3-pointer. The surge carried over to the second half and became a 14-0 run until Manny Bates swished a free throw with 18:29 left.
Butler would pull within a bucket again at 36-34 with 14:47 left on a dunk by Pierce Thomas. But the Volunteers again responded with a 17-1 run keyed by Phillips and Vescovi, and led by as many as 28 points in the second half.
–Field Level Media