Vols hand Ole Miss its first loss

Published 11:49 am Monday, January 8, 2024

NEWS RELEASE

The University of Tennessee men’s basketball team turned in a dominant performance Saturday evening, defeating No. 22/19 Ole Miss, 90-64, at a sold-out, over-capacity Food City Center.

Junior forward Jonas Aidoo and junior guard Zakai Zeigler both posted double-doubles in the victory for fifth-ranked Tennessee (11-3, 1-0 SEC) in its SEC opener against one of the final two undefeated Division I teams in the nation.

The Volunteers held Ole Miss (13-1, 0-1 SEC) scoreless for a span of 5:15 early in the first half and posted a 12-0 burst in 4:20 during that, turning a tie score into an 18-6 advantage. The Rebels followed their 2-of-14 start by making four of their next five shots, tallying nine straight points in 2:31 to trim the deficit right back to three, 18-15, with 7:44 to go in the frame.

Tennessee, buoyed by two 3-pointers from junior guard Jahmai Mashack in the final 25 seconds of the half, took a nine-point edge, 40-31, into the locker room. The Volunteers made their last four long-range shots of the session after a 1-of-12 start through 16-and-a-half minutes.

The home team scored 11 of the first 14 points after the intermission, including hitting two 3-pointers to extend its streak to six in a row, and went ahead by 17 points, 51-34, with 17:10 to go. The Volunteers pushed the margin all the way to 25, 63-38, with 13:51 on the clock after scoring five points from the free-throw line in just two seconds.

Tennessee stretched its cushion as high as 29 in the final minute and claimed the 26-point decision. It marked the program’s largest win over a ranked foe under ninth-year head coach Rick Barnes and its biggest such win since Feb. 2013. The decision was also the second-largest of the season for any team against a ranked foe.

The Volunteers, who trailed for a total of 49 seconds, led by 20-plus points for the final 14:56 of the contest. The triumph was their fifth this season by over 20 points and their third, including the second in as many games, by 25-plus.

Aidoo paced all players in both points (24) and rebounds (10), notching his third double-double of the season. The Durham, N.C., native shot 10-of-19 from the field to tie a carer high in makes, plus added two assists with zero turnovers.

Zeigler finished with 17 points to go along with a season- and game-best 10 assists and a season-high five rebounds. He committed only two turnovers in 37 minutes and went 4-of-11 from 3-point range. Fifth-year guard Santiago Vescovi totaled 11 points, four assists and just one giveaway, while Mashack scored 10 points and tied a season best with four assists.

Senior forward Jaemyn Brakefield led Ole Miss with 22 points, shooting 7-of-8 from the floor, hitting both his 3-point attempts and going 6-of-7 from the line. Junior guard Jaylen Murray had 11 points and a team-leading eight rebounds, all of which were in the first half, while senior guard Allen Flanigan added 10 points.

Following its 1-of-12 start from beyond the arc, Tennessee went 10-of-18 the rest of the way to finish 11-of-30 (36.7 percent). The Volunteers, who had 25 assists, also controlled play on the interior, posting a commanding 19-4 edge in offensive rebounds, leading to a 22-5 mark in second-chance points and a 42-30 advantage in paint points.

The Volunteers now head to Starkville, Miss., where they take on Mississippi State in their SEC road opener Wednesday at 7 p.m., live on SEC Network from Humphrey Coliseum.

Notebook

• Barnes now owns 790 victories in his career, 11 behind John Calipari—the lone active DI coach above him—for No. 14 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).

• Along with moving to 9-1 in its last 10 matchups with Ole Miss, Tennessee also improved to 17-2 in its last 19 home games versus the Rebels, dating back to Feb. 19, 1992.

• This Ole Miss team, which was one of the final two unbeaten schools in Division I, is the second in program history to win 13 straight games, joining the 2007-08 group that also opened 13-0 before heading to Knoxville ranked top-20 for the SEC opener and losing to a top-10 Tennessee squad.

• The Volunteers improved to 27-7 (.794) while ranked in the AP top five during Barnes’ tenure, across four different seasons.

• Tennessee is now 16-6 (.727) at home against AP top-25 teams in Barnes’ tenure, including 13-3 (.813) with both teams ranked.

• The Volunteers extended their home winning streak against AP top-25 teams to 11 in a row, a stretch that dates back to Jan. 30, 2021, versus Kansas.

• Tennessee upped its record in top-25 matchups, regardless of location, to 23-20 (.535) under Barnes’ direction.

• The Volunteers now own a seven-game winning streak that is tied for the ninth-longest in the country, per KenPom.

• The crowd of 21,932 not only served as a sellout, but was actually 254 over the ticketed capacity of the arena.

• Food City Center last had a listed crowd over capacity on Dec. 14, 2019, when 21,868 fans watched the Volunteers’ game against Memphis.

• Saturday’s affair marked the second of five confirmed sellouts—a number that already ties the single-season program record—this year and the 29th time in Barnes’ tenure 20,000-plus fans have been in attendance at Food City Center.

• The last time Tennessee defeated an AP-ranked opponent by greater than 20 points was Feb. 16, 2013, when it topped No. 25 Kentucky, 88-58, at Food City Center.

• The only team to beat an AP-ranked foe by more points this season is Colorado, which topped No. 15 Miami by 27 points, 90-63, on a neutral-site affair in Brooklyn, N.Y.

• Tennessee is the first team since the 2021-22 season to defeat an AP-ranked team by 25-plus points in league play, regardless of conference.

• The last time Tennessee had one player log a points/rebounds double-double and another notch a points/assists double-double in the same game was Feb. 2, 2019, at Texas A&M, when Jordan Bone (18 points, 10 assists) and Grant Williams (22 points, 10 rebounds) did so.

• Saturday marked the 21st time in Barnes’ nine-year tenure, including the second this season and seventh time in SEC play, the Volunteers had 25-plus assists in a contest.

• Tennessee’s 22 second-chance points and plus-17 margin in the category were both season highs.

• The Volunteers were one rebound shy of doubling up the Rebels, grabbing 47 and allowing a season-low 24.

• Four different Volunteers had four-plus assists, while only one Rebel reached that number.

• Ole Miss utilized 10 players and the nine besides Brakefield combined to shoot 16-of-46 (34.5 percent) from the field, 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) on 3-pointers and 6-of-10 (60.0 percent) at the line.

• The Volunteers had more assists (13) in the first half than Ole Miss had made field goals (12), as Tennessee went 16-of-34 (47.1 percent) and the Rebels shot 12-of-29 (41.4 percent).

• Tennessee then repeated that feat in the second half, posting 12 assists on an 18-of-37 (48.6 percent) clip, while the Rebels went 11-of-25 (44.0 percent).

• Aidoo scored a game-best 12 points in the first half alone, already matching his seventh-highest total as a Volunteer in even a full game.

• Aidoo, whose 24 points marked the second-highest mark of his career, has scored 17-plus points in

three of the last seven games after never previously surpassing 15 in the first 61 outings of his career.

• Three of Aidoo’s four-career double-doubles have come in the last 11 games, dating back to Nov. 20, 2023, versus Syracuse at the Maui Invitational in Honolulu.

• Aidoo’s 10 made field goals matched the career high he set on Dec. 12, 2023, against Georgia Southern.

• Zeigler is the first player ever to record six points/assists double-doubles for the Volunteers, breaking a tie with Rodney Woods (1972-75) atop the career leaderboard.

• Saturday marked the sixth time Zeigler has posted double-digit assists in his career—he scored 11-plus points in all of them—and the first since Feb. 25, 2023, against South Carolina.

• Zeigler has connected on four-plus 3-pointers in three of the last four games—he is 13-of-34 (42.4 percent) from deep during that stretch—after previously doing so twice in his first 75 appearances.

• Vescovi passed C.J. Watson (2002-06) and Ron Windby (1964-67) to move from No. 21 up to No. 19 on Tennessee’s all-time scoring list, now possessing 1,433 points.

• With his 128th appearance as a Volunteer, Vescovi tied Armani Moore (2012-16), Chris Lofton (2004-08) and Allan Houston (1989-93) for the No. 10 spot on the program’s all-time leaderboard.

• Mashack, who eclipsed 1,000 minutes played in his collegiate career, made two 3-pointers for the second game in row after doing so just once in his first 75 outings.

• Fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, while committing no turnovers.