NASHVILLE – Tennessee opened SEC Tournament play with a win Thursday, pulling away from Ole Miss in the second half to secure a 70-55 victory and move on to the quarterfinals.
With the win, the Vols advance to face No. 4 seed Missouri in Friday’s quarterfinal round. Tipoff is set for approximately 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Josiah-Jordan James led the way for Tennessee offensively Thursday with 20 points on a season-high-tying four made threes, as well as pulling down a game-high seven rebounds.
All-SEC first-teamer Santiago Vescovi was Tennessee’s only other double-figure scorer, with 15 points and three made 3-pointers. Vescovi also recorded six rebounds.
As a team, Tennessee made a 10 3-pointers—seven of which came from James and Vescovi.
After a closely-contested first half, Tennessee quickly created some distance early in the second half—pulling in front by 11, 44-33, less than one minute into the period after five points from James to start the half. Including his buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half, James rattled off an 8-0 run by himself to seize control of the game for Tennessee.
Ole Miss briefly threatened to get back into the game with a 7-0 run that cut the Vols’ lead to just four at 50-46 with 12:22 to go, but after the teams traded layups, Tennessee rattled off a 12-2 run to pull in front by 14 points with 7:39 remaining and take control of the game.
The Rebels drew no closer than nine points the rest of the way, as Tennessee forced Ole Miss to misfire on nine of its final 10 shot attempts.
After its hot start from beyond the arc in which it made five of its first seven 3-pointers, Ole Miss made just two of its final 13 attempts from beyond the arc.
Following a back-and-forth first half that featured eight ties and eight lead changes, Tennessee took a 39-33 lead into halftime after James hit a three from the corner at the buzzer that gave the Vols their largest lead of the day at that point.
Ole Miss was hot out of the gates, making each of its first four 3-point attempts and building a 25-19 lead midway through the first half.
Tennessee outscored the Rebels 20-8 the rest of the way in the first half, including a 10-2 run to close the period—highlighted by five points from Vescovi on a baseline fadeaway jumper and a deep three and James’ buzzer-beating corner three.
UP NEXT: Tennessee advances to face No. 4 seed Missouri in Friday’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
SUSTAINED SEC TOURNAMENT SUCCESS: With Thursday’s win, Tennessee has now won nine of its last 12 SEC Tournament games dating to 2018 with three championship game appearances during that span.
TENNESSEE CLASSIC UNIFORMS ANOTHER APPEARANCE: For the fourth time this season, the Vols sported their “Tennessee Classic” uniforms and improved to 4-0 while doing so.
The Big Orange also wore the Tennessee Classic uniforms against No. 10 Texas on Jan. 28, No. 1 Alabama on Feb. 15 and Arkansas on Feb. 28.