KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- Even before the opening tip Saturday night, players and staff from No. 13 LSU and No. 24 Tennessee were chirping at each other.
After the Volunteers' 64-50 victory, nobody said for sure exactly what the teams were at odds over, but Tennessee players were adamant that it had an impact.
"(LSU) wanted to win the fight," said Tennessee's 7-foot center Uros Plavsic, who had 12 points and six rebounds. "We wanted to win the basketball game. I think we won both."
Santiago Vescovi, who led the Vols (13-5, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) with 16 points, said the interaction played a role in them jumping to a 14-0 lead more than 6 minutes into the game and leading wire-to-wire for the victory.
"That (pre-game emotion) definitely set the tone," said Vescovi. "It helped us get started."
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said he didn't know exactly what transpired in the confusion at the beginning. But he liked how his team responded.
Vescovi had two 3-pointers in that initial burst and had 5 of 11 for the game. He had six rebounds and five assists to add to his production. Barnes also credited him with keeping the Vols from getting flustered whenever the Tigers (15-4, 3-4) made a run. Teams are playing him in a more physical manner.
"(Vescovi) was the one who kept everyone organized," Barnes said. "If we continue to be organized, we'll be fine on the offensive end."
"(The physicality) is just part of the game," said Vescovi. "The key is to not let it affect your game. It just makes me want to play harder."
LSU closed the gap a few times but could never scale the mountain. The Tigers trailed 29-24 at halftime, but an 8-2 Tennessee run to start the second half gave the Vols more breathing room.
"There is a line you to walk up to," Barnes said of his team's mentality. "It's about doing it the way you do it within the rules of the game. Every team takes on a different personality. Every game is a different personality."
LSU lost its third straight game. Tari Eason had 16 points, Brandon Murrray scored 15 and Eric Gaines had 10. Tennessee avenged a 12-poiint loss two weeks ago.
Tennessee super-senior John Fulkerson scored eight points, giving him 1,002 for his career.
NO. 6 DUKE 79, SYRACUSE 59
DURHAM, N.C. -- AJ Griffin hit five 3-pointers -- the most by a Duke player this season -- as the sixth-ranked Blue Devils bolted to an early lead and never trailed.
Griffin was one of four players for Duke (15-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 15 points, joining Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams. Banchero had 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Joey Baker added 11 points and Jeremy Roach dished out a career-high nine assists for Duke.
Jesse Edwards led Syracuse (9-10, 3-5) with 12 points and nine rebounds. Jimmy Boeheim also had 12 points.
The Blue Devils held Buddy Boeheim, the Orange's leading scorer (19.2) to 2-of-15 shooting, including 1 of 10 from behind the arc. Joe Girard, who entered the game leading the ACC in 3-point shooting at 45.5% and was tied for the conference lead with 51 made 3s, was 1 of 9 from deep as the Orange finished 5 of 29 (17.2%) from long range.
NO. 7 KANSAS 78, KANSAS STATE 75
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Ochai Agbaji hit a baseline jumper with 9 seconds left as No. 7 Kansas snapped Kansas State's two-game winning streak against ranked foes.
Agbaji's shot gave Kansas its first lead since early in the first half. He finished with 29 points.
Jalen Wilson added 16 points for Kansas (16-2, 5-1 Big 12), and Christian Braun and David McCormack had 11 each.
Kansas State (10-8, 2-5) wasted a career-high 35 points by Nijel Pack. Markquis Nowell had 16 points and Selton Miguel added 11.
Kansas made just 15 of 22 free throws in the second half but was saved by a 45-23 rebounding advantage.
K-State shot 10 of 26 from 3-point range.
NO. 10 HOUSTON 79, EAST CAROLINA 36
HOUSTON -- Kyler Edwards had 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as No. 10 Houston won its ninth game in a row and 36thth straight at home.
Edwards scored 17 first-half points as the Cougars (17-2, 6-0 American) built a 44-14 halftime lead. Edwards, who finished with six 3-pointers, has scored at least 23 points in each of the last three games and made at least six 3-pointers. Josh Carlton added 14 points and nine rebounds for Houston.
The Cougars are 6-0 in conference play for the first time since the 1983-84 season.
Tristen Newton finished with 14 points and six rebounds for East Carolina (11-7, 2-4), which set school records for fewest field goals with eight and lowest field goal percentage at 16%.
NO. 11 VILLANOVA 85, GEORGETOWN 74
WASHINGTON -- Collin Gillespie scored 28 points and Justin Moore added 19 as No. 11 Villanova beat the Hoyas for the 17th time in 20 meetings.
Gillespie connected on 6 of 9 3-pointers, including four in the second half for the Wildcats (14-5, 7-2 Big East).
Jermaine Samuels had 18 points for Villanova, which avoided back-to-back losses after dropping a rare home game to Marquette on Wednesday.
Collin Holloway led Georgetown (6-10, 0-5) with a career-high 25 points and Dante Harris added 17. Georgetown has lost six straight and has started Big East play with five straight losses for the first time in program history.
NO. 16 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 79, UTAH 67
SALT LAKE CITY -- Drew Peterson scored 23 points and Boogie Ellis added 18 as No. 16 Southern California continued its hottest start since the 1970-71 season.
Peterson made all five of his 3-point attempts, went 9 for 10 from the field, and grabbed seven rebounds for USC (16-2, 6-2 Pac-12).
The 1970-71 USC team is often considered the best Trojan team ever and began 17-1 on its way to a 24-2 record.
Gabe Madsen had a career-high 20 points for Utah (8-12, 1-9) and Lazar Stefanovic scored 10 for the Utes, who have lost eight straight.
MISSOURI STATE 79, NO. 22 LOYOLA CHICAGO 69
CHICAGO -- Isiaih Mosley scored 40 points on 14-of-22 shooting as the Bears ended No. 22 Loyola Chicago's 30-game home winning streak.
Donovan Clay added 16 points and Gaige Prim 11 for the Bears, who last beat an AP top-25 team Dec. 28, 2011, when it defeated No. 21 Creighton.
Braden Morris had 16 points and Lucas Williamson 11 for Loyola Chicago.
Missouri State led by as many as 20 and shot 60.9% from the field after halftime -- and 53.8% for the game. The Bears also went 8 of 19 from beyond the arc.
Loyola Chicago, off to its best start since 1965-66, shot just 40.3% from the field.