No. 22 Tennessee, USC seems to keep rolling in the Bahamas

Southern California’s Boogie Ellis understands the significance of Thursday’s Semifinal against No. 22 Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas.

“We come here and we win a few games, we have a chance to make some noise,” he said. “Just (passing on) to the guys that this is a really important tournament for us to make a statement.”

Ellis scored 27 points and Joshua Morgan and Drew Peterson posted double-doubles as the Trojans (4-1) defeated BYU 82-76 in the first round on Wednesday.

After leading 28-23 at halftime, Tennessee (3-1) Butler dominated in the second half, beating the Bulldogs 43-22 to cruise to a 71-45 win.

The winner will play against No. 3 Kansas (5-0) or Wisconsin (4-0) in the title game on Friday night. The losers of the semi-finals meet on Friday afternoon in the game for third place.

The Trojans extended their winning streak to four games by using a balanced scoring offense that included Peterson posting 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Morgan had his second consecutive double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.

The Trojans limited BYU to 25-for-59 shooting from the floor, 42.4 percent. USC also held the Cougars without a field goal for over four minutes in the second half to take a 13-point lead and secure the win.

The Trojans shot 31 of 58 (53.4 percent), including only 2 of 10 from long range, in addition to scoring 17 points on the Cougars’ 17 turnovers.

“We have an opportunity to make a statement,” Peterson said. “There are seven other good teams here and it’s time we really joined them. It’s a big stage and national attention, so we’ll be ready.”

Tennessee was ranked 11th to open the season, but lost 11 spots after losing to Colorado 78–66 on November 13, before recovering with an 81–50 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in their final game before going to the left the Caribbean.

“We still have some guys trying to figure out certain things to do,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “But we’re probably looking for consistency as much as anything and knowing what to get night in and night out.”

The Volunteers allowed three players to score in double figures against the Bulldogs, led by Santiago Vescovi, finishing with 13 points, while Julian Phillips added 11 points and six rebounds. Zakai Zeigler scored ten points and five assists.

Tennessee went 26 of 54 (48.1 percent) from the field, including 5 of 15 (33.3 percent) from 3-point range. The Volunteers were also faster than the Bulldogs 37-29.

“We have a group of guys who want to be a good basketball team and they recognize that we still have work to do,” Barnes said. “We think we have a team … capable of shooting the ball, but if not, we should be able to find other ways to score points with what we can do inside.”

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