KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Dominating around the rim on both ends of the floor, the 13th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers dropped Alcorn State, 94-40, Sunday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Volunteers (7-1) outscored Alcorn State (3-6) 50-16 in the paint on the evening, throwing down a season-high seven dunks and almost doubling the Braves in rebounds, 44-23. That domination down low led to a 54-point margin of victory, tying for the eighth-best in program history—last done Dec. 18, 2020, against Tennessee Tech.
A strong night all-around for UT was led by Olivier Nkamhoua, who had a team-high 20 points and six assists, which marked a career-best. His night was joined by an outstanding effort from Jahmai Mashack, who recorded career-highs in points (13), rebounds (seven) and steals (four). Zakai Zeigler also impressed on the defensive side, leading the squad with five takeaways in the game, matching a career-best.
Zeigler was the leader for the Volunteer defense that poked away 13 steals in the game. For the third time this season, the Tennessee defense logged more steals than it gave away turnovers, posting a 13-11 margin. Continuing the momentum from last time out against McNeese State Wednesday, the Vols posted a season-best 36 points off turnovers, outscoring the Braves 36-7, while conceding just two second-chance points and three fast-break points. Tennessee, on the other hand, had 20 second-chance points and 20 fast-break points.
As a whole, the Vols finished with six players in double-figures for scoring. Nkamhoua and Mashack were complemented by Julian Phillips’ 18 points, Uros Plavsic’s 12, Tyreke Key’s 11 and Zeigler’s 10. The night marked the first game since Dec. 21, 2020, that the Big Orange had six individuals finish with 10 or more points, doing so against Saint Joseph’s that night.
The offense supplied the firepower early. Tennessee earned a 49-22 lead after the first half of action, courtesy of 14 points from Phillips on 5-of-7 shooting, and nine points from Key, courtesy of three made 3-pointers. The offense played a mostly clean half, only surrendering three turnovers while notching six steals in the first 20 minutes. Alcorn State did not make a 3-pointer in the period, and the Vols kept up their stretch of assisting on made baskets, logging 14 assists on 17 buckets in the half after posting assists on 91.3 percent (21-of-23) of its scores from the field against McNeese.
The Vols opened the second half on a 14-2 run and added to its advantage the entire half. Tennessee utterly dominated in the paint in the final 20 minutes, outscoring Alcorn 26-4 down low. Nkamhoua was a large part of that success. He was on fire in the stanza, dropping 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including a 3-pointer, and hitting all four free throws.
Tennessee, for much of the game, looked automatic at the free-throw line, finishing the night 20-of-24 and having a stretch with 19 consecutive makes during 25:35 of game action. Phillips and Nkhamoua wrapped up the night perfect at the line, leading the team with seven makes each.
UP NEXT: The Volunteers round out their current three-game homestand, welcoming Eastern Kentucky to Rocky Top on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m ET. The game will be televised on SEC Network and tickets are available for purchase at AllVols.com.
SPREADING THE LOVE: Tennessee had six players score in double figures for the first time since Dec. 21, 2020.
ORANGE CRUSH : For the first time since March 7, 2015, Tennessee wore orange uniforms at home. It marked just the fourth time since 1980 that the Vols have donned orange uniforms at home.
DOING NUMBERS: Sunday’s 54-point victory is tied for Tennessee’s eighth-largest margin of victory in program history, and its largest since defeating Tennessee Tech by 54 points on Dec. 18, 2020.
DEFENDING TBA: Tennessee extended its home win streak to 21 games with Sunday’s victory—a streak that dates to March 7, 2021. The Vols’ current home win streak is the sixth-longest in program history. Tennessee has also now won 18 straight home games against non-conference opponents.
LOCKDOWN DEFENSE: Tennessee has now held its opponent under the 1.000 points-per-possession mark in seven of eight games this season, going undefeated when doing so.
The Vols held Alcorn State to .588 ppp on Wednesday—the fewest points-per-possession that Tennessee has allowed in a game this season.
JAMES BACK, VESCOVI OUT: While Josiah-Jordan James returned for the Vols Sunday after missing four games, fellow senior guard Santiago Vescovi missed the contest due to a shoulder injury suffered during Wednesday’s win over McNeese State.
Prior to Sunday, Vescovi had not missed a game during his Tennessee career—suiting up for the Vols in 88 consecutive games.
LOCKDOWN DEFENSE PT. 2: For the sixth time this season, Tennessee held its opponent below 33 percent shooting from the field for the game. Alcorn State finished the night shooting 27.1 percent (13-for-48)—a season-low by a Tennessee opponent.