POISSY, France – The Tennessee Volunteers used a balanced, team effort to hold off the Paris All-Stars Thursday night at the Complexe Sportif Marcel Cerdan. Grant Williams led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds as UT triumphed, 84-79.
With the win, the Vols conclude their European tour with an unblemished 3-0 record. Tennessee previously defeated teams of local professional players in Barcelona and Valencia, Spain.
With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, Williams delivered a crucial block on a 3-point attempt with the Vols clinging to an 80-77 lead. Tennessee guards Lamonte Turner and Chris Darrington then iced the victory at the free-throw line.
Thursday’s opposition was the most athletic group Tennessee faced during its three-game tour and included former Texas A&M standout Fabyon Harris.
“This was probably the toughest game for us (here in Europe),” Williams said. “We were really forced to play as a team. We showed that we can all play with each other, and we showed that—no matter what—we’re going to push through. All the guys did their jobs tonight.”
Late in the third quarter, the homestanding pros put together an 8-0 run to take a 59-53 lead. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes then used a timeout to halt the Paris All-Stars’ momentum. And in the closing minute of the quarter, UT scored four straight points on an inbounds alley-oop to Kyle Alexander and a driving layup by Turner to enter the fourth trailing by two, 63-61.
The fourth quarter featured three lead changes, and the Vols pulled ahead for good on an Alexander putback off an offensive rebound. That bucket gave the Big Orange a one-point edge, 67-66.
Alexander finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Darrington was 6-for-6 from the foul line en route to 15 points. True freshman forward Derrick Walker scored 14.
Seven different Vols scored at least seven points in Thursday’s win.
Tennessee led by nine, 23-14, after the opening 10 minutes. The Paris All-Stars trimmed the UT lead to one point, 33-32, at the 3:30 mark in the second quarter, but four straight points by Williams gave the Vols some cushion, and the Big Orange took a 43-39 lead into the halftime break.
The Vols’ top performers in the first half were Williams (12 points, six rebounds) and Walker (eight points, three rebounds).
“Derrick really stepped up,” Williams said of his rookie frontcourt mate. “As a freshman, he’s got a voice out there. The same can be said for Chris Darrington and Jordan Bone. They both did a great job tonight.”
Darrington finished the tour with the highest scoring average on the team (14.3 ppg)—barely edging out Turner (14.0 ppg). Walker averaged 13 points and eight rebounds. Tennessee’s top rebounders in Europe were Williams (9.3 rpg) and Alexander (9.0 rpg).
Despite the 3-0 record in Europe, Williams acknowledged that he and his teammates have plenty of work to do this fall.
“We’re going to have to work on our defense and just focus on improving every day,” Williams said. “We have to build on what we did here and take that into our season for non-conference and SEC play.
“We’re loving this trip. The guys are enjoying each other. The difference between France and Spain is incredible. I love Spain because that’s my minor—Spanish. Here in France… the Eiffel Tower is just mind-blowing. I’ve never seen such a beautiful view. The tours and the cruises and all the things we’ve done so far have been just a blessing.”
Tennessee will visit the famous Musée du Louvre (home of the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, Mona Lisa) Friday before having the afternoon to explore the city of Paris. The team departs for the United States Saturday.