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Vols down Villanova to capture NIT Season Tip-Off title

Nov 27, 2010 - 9:03 AM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Tobias Harris paced a balanced attack with 15 points and nine rebounds, and 24th-ranked Tennessee notched a 78-68 victory over seventh-ranked Villanova to capture the title in the 2010 NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.

Scotty Hopson scored a game-high 18 points for the Vols (5-0), who won this tournament for the first time after posting wins over Belmont, Missouri State and VCU to reach the championship game. Cameron Tatum contributed 17 points, and Brian Williams added 12 in the victory.

Mouphtaou Yarou led Villanova (5-1) with 15 points and five rebounds, though the Wildcats lost for the first time this year after beating Marist, Boston University and UCLA to reach the title contest. Antonio Pena chipped in 14 points, and Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes each had 11 in defeat.

"This will be a tape we're going to look at," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. "You're going to see we weren't tough enough and we weren't smart enough. So it's going to help us. It's definitely going to help us."

Dominic Cheek scored two of his 10 points for Villanova on a layup with 7 1/2 minutes to play, bringing the Wildcats to within 56-55, but Tennessee responded with a back-breaking 7-0 burst.

After Cheek missed an opportunity to tie the game with a free throw, Pena grabbed an offensive rebound and missed a layup. Tennessee gained possession, and Hopson's jumper put the Vols ahead by three.

Corey Fisher's three-point attempt at the other end was off the mark, and Harris' dunk with 6:22 remaining increased the lead to five. The Vols got another defensive stop, leading to Tatum's three-pointer to cap the stretch with Tennessee holding a 63-55 advantage.

Villanova never got closer than five for the last 5:37.

"We've handled some adversity, now we have to handle some success," Tennessee's embattled head coach Bruce Pearl said. "That will be the next step for this basketball team."

Tennessee got out to a 10-4 lead on a Hopson free throw a bit more than six minutes into the contest, and the Vols held a 22-14 advantage after a Harris three with eight minutes to go in the first half.

The Vols' largest lead came at 10, 30-20, following a pair of free throws from Hopson, though the Wildcats responded with a 7-0 burst, with Wayns' four points cutting the deficit to three.

It was a 35-30 game at halftime in favor of Tennessee, and Villanova began the second half on a 9-2 burst to grab a 39-37 lead on Stokes' three-pointer 2 1/2 minutes into the half.

The lead alternated several times before Melvin Goins made a pair from the line for a 56-51 Vols edge, but Maurice Sutton and Cheeks made consecutive shots for Villanova to cut its deficit to one.

Game Notes

Villanova had won its last 17 games in November dating back to 2007...Fisher, who had a career-high 26 points in his last game, ended with just three on 1- of-10 shooting...Tennessee beat Villanova for the first time in school history, having lost the only two meetings. The last game between the schools was in 1971.