There will be plenty of desire Friday when No. 3 Kansas faces No. 22 Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament at Paradise Island, Bahamas. The question is how much energy will be available.
Both teams worked overtime in the semifinals and will be taking the court for the third time in three days with plenty at stake.
Kansas (6-0) pulled off a 69-68 win in its semifinal against Wisconsin, securing the victory when Bobby Pettiford made a reverse layup off a Zach Clemence missed 3-pointer with three seconds remaining.
Pettiford was between the top of the 3-point line and center court when Clemence took his shot and still made it under the basket to pick up a deflected rebound and make the shot.
“It’s the most unbelievable layup I’ve ever seen and the best finish in college basketball so far this season,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “Just an unbelievably athletic play.”
Jalen Wilson led Kansas with 29 points and 14 rebounds, while Kevin McCullar Jr. had 18 points with nine rebounds. McCullar hit a 3-pointer with 11.8 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Kansas earned its 17th consecutive victory dating back to last season despite getting outscored 43-30 in the second half.
Victories have not come easy for the Jayhawks in the Bahamas. They were pushed late in their 80-74 victory over NC State in the first round on Wednesday.
“We had nothing going (after halftime) and they had outplayed us totally,” said Self, who has his seventh 6-0 start in his 20 seasons with the Jayhawks. “Obviously we make two plays at the end of regulation and the end of overtime that basically gave us the win. We were not the best team today.”
Now, 10 days removed from a 69-64 victory over Duke in a neutral-site game at Indianapolis, the Jayhawks have a chance to deliver another resume-building victory.
Tennessee (4-1) found its way into the title game with a 73-66 victory over Southern California. Santiago Vescovi hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining in overtime, his only make from distance in eight tries.
Freshman Julian Phillips scored a career-best 25 points for the Volunteers, who appear back on track after a surprising 78-66 defeat to Colorado on a neutral court in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 13.
Thursday’s win was far from a thing of beauty for Tennessee as evidenced by its 37.5 percent shooting from the field, including 16.7 percent (3 of 18) from 3-point range. The Volunteers aided their chances by forcing 20 turnovers and turning them into 25 points.
“I think a lot of our offense comes from our defense, so whenever we’re playing good defense and we’re focused on the defensive end and turn them over, we get to our offense better and we get into that run-and-gun offense,’ said Tennessee’s Olivier Nkamhoua, who had 12 points with six rebounds. “We were able to play faster.”
The teams last met two seasons ago in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge when then-No. 18 Tennessee defeated No. 15 Kansas 80-61 in a home game for the Volunteers.
–Field Level Media