After a difficult ending to a week in paradise, No. 9 Tennessee looks to bounce back Friday night when it hosts the College of Charleston.
Tennessee (4-1) will play for the first time since Monday’s 73-72 loss to No. 6 Purdue in the championship game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
There was criticism for how the Volunteers handled their final possession with a chance to win. Point guard Bobby Maze, who had 13 points, looked to penetrate and kicked the ball out to 6-foot-9 Wayne Chism at the top of the key, beyond the 3-point arc.
Chism, who had a game-high 24-points, missed his shot. The Volunteers defended the decision for Chism - a 32.7 percent 3-point shooter - to take the final shot.
“That’s a shot we’ll take every time,” Maze said.
Chism and Tyler Smith were named to the all-tournament team for Tennessee, which won its first three games this season by an average of 47.7 points before a hard-fought 57-53 win over DePaul in Sunday’s semifinals. That may have affected the Volunteers in the title game.
“It was a physical game, but it would have been even more physical if both teams weren’t a little fatigued from playing (Sunday) night,” coach Bruce Pearl said. “I thought both teams played very well, and I thought we played well enough to win.”
The last two games haven’t gone well for leading scorer Scotty Hopson, who averaged 22.0 points and made 14 of 18 3-pointers in Tennessee’s three blowouts. Hopson scored 13 points total against DePaul and Purdue, missing all six 3-pointers.
The Volunteers are also trying to re-establish some home dominance. They had won 37 straight in Knoxville before losing five of 12 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The College of Charleston (1-2) began this two-game trip with a 77-71 loss to East Tennessee State on Wednesday. Andrew Goudelock scored 23 points to lead the Cougars, who are coached by Bobby Cremins and picked to win the Southern Conference.
“That is a really good win for us,” East Tennessee State coach Murry Bartow said. “That’s a team that’s picked to win their league, and to hold them to 39 percent shooting and outrebounding them 47-33 was huge.
It was a forgettable night for senior guard Tony White Jr, who missed all seven shots and had two points. White is a Knoxville native, three-year starter and preseason all-conference selection this season for the Cougars.
The College of Charleston won the only previous meeting with Tennessee, 55-49 in the first round of the 1996 NIT. The Cougars have lost 12 of 14 other matchups with SEC opponents.