Volunteers hold off NC State

Published 12:25 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

NEWS RELEASE

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.

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.

 

Notebook

• 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.