Volunteers hold off NC State

Published 12:25 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

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The University of Tennessee men’s basketball team registered a 79-70 victory Saturday night against NC State at Frost Bank Center.

Fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James notched a career-high-tying 23 points for No. 12 Tennessee (8-3), pacing all scorers in the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Series matchup.

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The Volunteers scored seven of the first nine points, but the Wolfpack logged 17 of the next 23 to go up by six, 19-13, with 10:36 on the first-half clock. Tennessee countered with seven straight points to regain the lead, part of a 16-3 run that put it ahead by a then-game-best seven, 29-22, with 4:39 left in the frame. It went 4-of-5 from 3-point range during that stretch after opening the game just 1-of-8.

NC State (7-3) pulled even at 31 in the final minute of the session, but a 3-pointer by James gave Tennessee a 34-31 edge at the break. James (10) and junior guard Zakai Zeigler (11) combined for 21 first-half points and the latter had four of the team’s 11 assists, while NC State had just five total.

Following its 3-pointer to close the opening half, Tennessee opened the second with a 10-4 burst to take a nine-point edge, 44-35, with 17:36 to go. NC State answered with seven consecutive points in 96 seconds to trim the margin to two, but Tennessee scored the next nine in just 2:05 to take a then-game-high 11-point lead, 55-44, with 12:13 left.

The Wolfpack, though, would not go away and posted a 16-5 burst, including eight points in a row in 1:56, to level the score at 60 with 7:17 to play. Tennessee did not allow NC State pull ahead and went back in front on a 3-pointer by James just 65 seconds later. It eventually stretched the cushion to eight, 75-67, on another 3-pointer by James with 1:41 remaining.

The Volunteers went on to go up by a game-best 12, 79-67, with just 37 seconds on the ticker. NC State hit a 3-pointer at the other end to make the final tally a nine-point decision.

In addition to matching his career best in points, James set a new top mark in made 3-pointers, as he went 5-of-7 beyond the arc. The Charleston, S.C., native was 6-of-10 overall from the field, as well as 6-of-6 at the line, while also pulling down seven rebounds and dishing out three assists.

Zeigler set season highs in points (20), made field goals (seven), made 3-pointers (four) and minutes (39), while tying his top mark in steals (four). His assist and minutes totals were both the top mark by a Volunteer this season.

Junior guard Jahmai Mashack recorded season bests in points (11), made field goals (five), rebounds (five) and assists (four). Sophomore forward Tobe Awaka grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds and tied a career best with three assists, the former mark equaling the highest total by a Tennessee player in 2023-24.

Graduate student guard D.J. Horne lead the Wolfpack with 16 points, 11 of which came in the first six minutes. He shot 4-of-7 from 3-point range, including making his first three attempts. Graduate student forward DJ Burns Jr., who redshirted at Tennessee in 2018-19 to begin his career, compiled 15 points and a team-high five assists. Junior guard Jayden Taylor chipped in 11 points, but Tennessee held him to a 2-of-9 field-goal clip.

Both teams shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range, as the Volunteers went 12-of-27 to tie a season high in makes, while the Wolfpack recorded an 8-of-18 mark at the other end. Tennessee had 22 assists and conceded only 13.

The Volunteers now return home to Food City Center, where they play Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against Tarleton State.



• Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes now owns 787 victories in his career, passing Lefty Driesell for sole possession of the No. 15 spot on the all-time wins list (min. five years at a Division I school).

• In nine years at Tennessee, Barnes now has 35 wins over programs that have won an NCAA championship.

• The Volunteers are now 5-2 in their last seven non-home games against NC State, with the wins in five different locations.

• Tennessee improved to 4-1 in its last five games versus ACC opponents, with the four victories over four different teams at four different neutral sites.

• Through its first 11 games of the season, Tennessee has played seven contests against Power Six opponents.

• While the Volunteers made just one of their first eight 3-point shots, NC State opened 3-of-4, with all three makes from Horne.

• Mashack scored in double figures for the seventh time as a collegian and the first since March 16, 2023, against Louisiana in Orlando, Fla., in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

• Awaka posted double-digit rebounds for the third time in his career and the first since March 4, 2023, at Auburn.

• James’ 23 points matched the career-best mark he set on March 1, 2022, at Georgia, while his five made 3-pointers surpassed his prior high of four, which he tallied nine times, most recently on Nov. 6, 2023, against Tennessee Tech.

• Prior to Zeigler posting eight assists, the top mark by a Volunteer this year was seven, recorded on three separate occasions.

• Before Zeigler played 38:34 against the Wolfpack, the highest figure by a Tennessee player in 2023-24 was 38:02 by James at North Carolina on Nov. 29.