Updated with more information on SEC schedule changes at 9 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2021.
There are 5,225 miles separating College Station, Texas, from Montevideo, Uruguay.
It sure seemed like home for Santiago Vescovi.
Playing at Texas A&M for the first time in his career, Tennessee's sophomore guard from South America made four 3-pointers in the first eight minutes Saturday to ignite the No. 9 Volunteers to a 68-54 dismantling of the Aggies. Tennessee improved to 9-1 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play, while Texas A&M fell to 6-4 and 1-3.
"I was not feeling that good today in terms of rhythm on my shot," a somewhat bewildered Vescovi said afterward. "I really don't know what happened today. I was shooting in warmups and couldn't make shots.
"Then I got in the game, and they started falling, so I just started taking the opportunities."
Vescovi scored a career-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range, and he also tallied five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Not to be overlooked from his marvelous afternoon was just one turnover.
"As soon as the COVID hit, he went home, and he was one of the last players to get back," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said after improving to 30-8 lifetime against Texas A&M. "We told him what he had to do, and he came back in the best condition we've ever seen him. He's a smart, crafty player, and he's competitive.
"He's a very deceptive defender, and I know for a fact that his teammates love what he's about."
Senior forward John Fulkerson added 11 points as the Vols improved to 2-0 on the road, while freshman guard Jaden Springer chipped in 10. Springer, who received his first career start, dished out six assists but also committed six turnovers.
Tennessee shot a stout 58.7% from the floor, but the even more impressive stat was that the Vols amassed 27 field goals through 23 assists.
"We knew before the game that it was going to be an assist game and that we had to share the ball," Santiago said. "I think it's really fun, to be honest, because you can get a shot for yourself and be happy, but if you get an assist, you're going to be happy and your teammate who made the shot is going to be happy as well. Having 23 assists shows how we share the ball and how unselfish we are."
Said Springer: "That's the way every team should play, because the game is so much easier when everybody is moving the ball. It's fun to score, and it's fun to see your teammates score."
Savion Flagg and Quenton Jackson led Texas A&M with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Vescovi's fourth 3-pointer gave the Vols a 16-9 lead, and a Fulkerson layup from Springer at the 9:31 mark of the first half provided Tennessee its first double-digit advantage at 22-11. Tennessee's largest first-half lead of 27-13 was the result of a Keon Johnson 3-pointer with 7:59 remaining, but the Aggies warmed from long range and pulled within 37-30 at the break.
The Vols wound up making 15 of 24 shots (62.5%) during the first 20 minutes, and another Fulkerson layup and Vescovi's fifth 3-pointer in the first minute of the second half restored Tennessee's cushion at 42-30. Texas A&M never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Tennessee's win avenged a 63-58 loss to the Aggies last season in Knoxville.
"We went back and looked at that game, and it was a really hard game to watch," Barnes said. "We weren't very tough, and they came in and beat us any and every way you can beat somebody."
Due to coronavirus-related issues within the basketball programs at Missouri and South Carolina, the Tuesday night games of Tennessee at South Carolina and Vanderbilt at Missouri have been postponed.
Tennessee will now play at Vanderbilt on Tuesday in a 7 p.m. EST contest that will be televised by ESPN2. The Vols and Commodores will meet again next Saturday inside Thompson-Boling Arena in their previously scheduled matchup.
As of right now, Tennessee does not have a game on Feb. 24, which was the original date of its game in Nashville.