LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jeremy Pargo had a modest line and a big-time performance in Gonzaga’s latest impressive win.
Pargo had 10 points and seven assists with only two turnovers, leading the seventh-ranked Bulldogs to an 83-74 victory over No. 12 Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic championship on Sunday night.
Steven Gray scored 19 points and Matt Bouldin added 17 for Gonzaga, which shot 52 percent to overcome a 50-26 rebounding deficit. Pargo was selected the tournament MVP.
“He knows he doesn’t need to score to quarterback this club,” coach Mark Few said. “He did that by handling the pressure, getting other guys wide open shots.”
Gonzaga led by 18 before Tennessee rallied to close to 77-71 on Cameron Tatum’s 3-pointer with just over a minute left. Micah Downs hit five of six free throws and Pargo had a fast-break dunk to help the Bulldogs (4-0) hold on.
Tyler Smith scored 17 and reserves Scotty Hopson and Brian Williams each had a big game for the Volunteers (5-1). Hopson scored 16 and Williams had 15 rebounds.
“We showed great heart,” coach Bruce Pearl said. “We didn’t show great character, because we lost our poise, panicked and fouled.”
Tennessee shot 36 percent and had 21 turnovers, compared with 14 for Gonzaga.
“When you don’t turn the ball over against a team like that you’re in good shape,” Pargo said.
Josh Heytvelt had 15 points for the Bulldogs, who will play the Vols again on Jan. 7 in Knoxville.
“I’d rather not go to Knoxville now,” Few said.
The game figured to match strength against strength. The Vols entered shooting 53 percent from the field. Gonzaga’s opponents were shooting only 35 percent.
The Bulldogs got the better of that matchup, holding the Vols to 27-of-76 shooting. Gonzaga connected on 27 of 52 attempts.
“We didn’t defend well,” Pearl said. “There’s a difference between playing hard and playing effectively.”
After Gonzaga went up five on a 3 by Gray midway through the first half, Tennessee went on a 15-6 run. Hopson and Smith each had three-point plays during the surge to help the Vols take a 28-24 lead.
Tightening their inside defense, the Bulldogs closed the first half with an 11-3 spurt.
“We were just not getting back on the fast break,” Smith said.
Tatum was rewarded with the start in place of Hopson after his 17-point performance against Georgetown in the semifinals. The freshman had six points, making two of seven 3s.