#5 VOLS KNOCK OFF #10/8 KENTUCKY, 103-92, AT RUPP ARENA

Courtesy / UT Athletics

#5 VOLS KNOCK OFF #10/8 KENTUCKY, 103-92, AT RUPP ARENA

Courtesy / UT Athletics

Game Recap: Men’s Basketball | February 03, 2024

LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the second time in program history, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team won on the road in a matchup of AP top-10 teams, as it earned a 103-92 victory Saturday night over No. 10/8 Kentucky.

Behind a co-career-best 26-point, career-high 13-assist double-double from junior guard Zakai Zeigler and a career-best 26 points from fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James, fifth-ranked Tennessee (16-5, 6-3 SEC) claimed a wire-to-wire triumph over the Wildcats at Rupp Arena. The win moved head coach Rick Barnes to 7-1 against AP top-10 Kentucky teams in his nine-year tenure at Tennessee.

The Volunteers, who hit 3-pointers on their first two possessions, raced out to an 8-0 edge after just 1:53. Tennessee hit three of its next six long-range shots and upped its advantage to 12 points, 19-7, after only 5:36 of action.

After a 1-of-5 start from the field, Kentucky (15-6, 5-4 SEC) made seven of its next 10 shots to cut the margin to three, 23-20, with 11:16 on the clock. The Volunteers responded with a 13-2 surge in just 2:38 to take a then-game-best 14-point advantage, 36-22, with 8:26 to go before the break. The Wildcats countered with a 12-2 run in 2:07 to make it a four-point game, 38-34, with 4:58 left in the frame.

The margin remained the same at the break, as Tennessee carried a 46-42 cushion into the locker room. Both teams excelled from deep in the opening 20 minutes, as the Volunteers went 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) and Kentucky shot 8-of-17 (47.1 percent). Zeigler scored 13 first-half points, all in the opening 14 minutes on a perfect 5-of-5 clip, including making all three of his 3-pointers, while freshman guard Rob Dillingham notched 17 points and shot 5-of-6 beyond the arc for the Wildcats.

After Kentucky opened the second half with a 3-pointer to trim Tennessee’s edge to one, the Volunteers scored 13 of the next 15 points over three-and-a-half minutes, including hitting three 3-pointers, to go back up by a dozen, 59-47, with 15:05 to go.

The visitors went on to stretch their lead to a game-high 16, 76-60, with 9:22 to go after scoring seven straight points in 51 seconds, four from sophomore forward Tobe Awaka followed by a run-capping 3-pointer by fifth-year guard Santiago Vescovi. The Wildcats answered once again, this time with an 11-2 burst in 3:23 to make it 78-71 with 5:23 on the ticker.

The final response of the game, though, came from the Volunteers, who soon went on a 7-1 surge in just 66 seconds to go back up by 13 points, 89-76, with just 2:13 to play.

Kentucky never got closer than eight the rest of the way, as Tennessee claimed the 11-point decision, matching its largest road win ever against the Wildcats. The 103 points marked the most by a visiting SEC team against Kentucky since Jan. 25, 1992, with that the only other triple-digit occurrence in at least the last 76 seasons (1948-2024).

Zeigler finished the night 8-of-11 from the floor, 3-of-6 beyond the arc and 7-of-10 at the stripe. He had 13 assists and just two turnovers, while notching a game-best three steals. He became the second SEC player in at least the last 25 seasons (1999-2024), per ESPN Stats & Info, to record even 25 and 10 on the road against the Wildcats. The Long Island, N.Y., native also became the seventh player in at least the last 62 seasons (1962-2024) with 13-plus assists against them at any location.

James equaled Zeigler’s point total, as his 26 came on a 9-of-18 mark from the field, including a 4-of-9 ledger from deep. He went 4-of-4 at the line and pulled down five rebounds in his third-career win at Rupp Arena.

Fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht totaled 16 points and hit all five of his free throws, while Vescovi, who also earned his third road victory over the Wildcats, scored 11 points and shot 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. Junior forward Jonas Aidoo added 11 points, a game-best 11 rebounds and a team-high three blocks, giving the Volunteers two players with a double-double.

Dillingham finished the night with a game-leading 35 points, as he shot 14-of-20 from the floor, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range. His showing marked the top point total by a Tennessee opponent since Jan. 26, 2020.

Fifth-year guard Antonio Reeves tallied 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, but Tennessee limited him to a 1-of-5 clip from long range and a 2-of-9 start from the floor. Freshman guard Reed Sheppard added 16 points and went 4-of-7 from deep.

Both teams shot at least 48.0 percent from the floor and 40.0 percent beyond the arc while making a dozen 3-pointers. Tennessee shot 36-of-74 (48.6 percent) overall and 12-of-30 (40.0 percent) from long range, while Kentucky notched 34-of-69 (49.3 percent) and 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) respective clips.

The Volunteers, though, had a 42-30 edge in paint points, as well as shot 19-of-26 (73.1 percent) from the line compared the Wildcats’ 12-of-19 (63.2 percent) ledger.

Tennessee now heads home to Knoxville, Tenn., where it takes the court Wednesday at 7 p.m. against LSU, live on SEC Network from Food City Center.

To keep up with the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team on social media, follow @Vol_Hoops on Instagram and X/Twitter, as well as /tennesseebasketball on Facebook.  

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS POSTGAME NOTES
• Barnes now owns 795 victories in his career, 10 behind the opposing head coach Saturday, John Calipari—the lone active DI coach above him—and Rick Byrd for No. 13 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).
• Barnes upped his record to 13-11 all-time versus Calipari, including 11-9 in the regular season.
• After going 9-35 (.205) in the 22 seasons (1993-2015) before his arrival, Tennessee is now 11-9 (.500) versus Kentucky in Barnes’ tenure.
• Tennessee’s 11 wins over Kentucky over the past nine seasons under Barnes are five more than any other team, as Kansas and Auburn rank second with six apiece.
• The Volunteers are now 10-5 against ranked Kentucky teams since 2015-16 under Barnes, good for twice as many such victories as any other team, as Kansas is second with five.
• Tennessee moved to 7-1 versus AP top-10 Kentucky teams under Barnes, as well as 7-2 in AP top-25 matchups and 4-1 in AP top-10 showdowns.
• Barnes now owns four road wins against the Wildcats in his nine seasons—all coming in the last seven years, as he is 4-3 in that stretch—after the program had two such victories in the 35 seasons (1979-2015) before his arrival.
• James and Vescovi both finished their Tennessee careers with a 3-2 road record against Kentucky, as they previously earned triumphs in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.
• Tennessee’s 103 points marked its fifth time ever scoring triple digits against the Wildcats and its first time doing so on the road.
• The Volunteers’ 103 points tied their second-most ever versus Kentucky, equaling the 103 on Feb. 15, 1975, and trailing only the 107 on Jan. 21, 1992, with both games in Knoxville.
• Tennessee’s prior top scoring total on the road against Kentucky was 90 on Jan. 10, 1976, while its top figure at Rupp  Arena was 88 on March 7, 1992.
• This is the 13th AP top-10 road win in program history, including the second under Barnes (81-73 on March 3, 2020, at sixth-ranked Kentucky) and the fourth against the Wildcats.
• Saturday marked the second time in program history Tennessee won an AP top-10 matchup on the road, as the triumph over Kentucky joined a 66-62 victory in a one-versus-two showdown at top-ranked Memphis on Feb. 23, 2008.
• Overall, the Volunteers are now 11-12 all-time in AP top-10 matchups, including 7-5 in Barnes’ nine-year tenure.
• The Volunteers improved to 8-3 in their last 11 games versus AP top-10 foes, a streak that dates back to a 77-73 result versus sixth-ranked Arizona on Dec. 12, 2021.
• Tennessee moved to 30-9 (.769) under Barnes while ranked in the top five of the AP Poll.
• The result Saturday dropped Kentucky to 7-2 in AP top-10 clashes at Rupp Arena during Calipari’s 15-year tenure, with the lone prior loss a 79-73 setback on Jan. 28, 2017, against second-ranked Kansas.
• The last time Kentucky lost an AP top-10 matchup on its home court in SEC play—or to any team other than Kansas—was March 2, 1997, when the third-ranked Wildcats fell, 72-66, to sixth-ranked South Carolina.
• Tennessee 103 points marked the fourth time a visiting team has ever hit triple digits at Rupp Arena, joining the 111 by VMI on Nov. 14, 2008, the 105 by Arkansas on Jan. 25, 1992, and the 116 by Louisiana on Dec. 23, 1989.
• The 103 points for Tennessee marked its first time hitting triple digits since compiling 102 on Dec. 21, 2020, against St. Joseph’s and its top total since logging 103 on Dec. 18, 2020, versus Tennessee Tech.
• The last time Tennessee scored 100-plus points against an SEC team was Jan. 15, 2019, when it had 106 versus Arkansas, while the last time it hit triple digits on the road was Dec. 15, 2018, at Memphis.
• The Volunteers last registered triple-digit points in an SEC road game on Feb. 16, 1993, when it amassed 101 at Arkansas.
• Tennessee’s 103 points marked its most in an SEC road game since logging 107 in an overtime contest on Feb. 10, 1993, at South Carolina and most in a regulation SEC road game since finishing with 106 at LSU on Feb. 11, 1989.
• The Volunteers’ 11-point win tied their largest road victory ever against Kentucky, equaling an 82-71 decision on Feb. 6, 2021, and a 66-55 result on Jan. 20, 1979.
• Tennessee is the first team since Auburn in 2018-19 to play Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina—the three winningest programs in college basketball history—in the same season, as well as the first since UCLA in 2015-16 to play all three in the regular season and the first since Georgia Tech in 1999-2000 to play all three away from home in the regular season.
• Dillingham, whose 14 made field goals set a new SEC high this season, became the third player to score 35-plus points against a Barnes-led Tennessee team, joining Arkansas’ Mason Jones (37 on Feb. 26, 2020) and Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis (36 on Dec. 19, 2015).
• Over the opening 10 minutes, Tennessee rebounded eight of its 12 missed field goals, while conceding just four offensive boards at the other end.
• The Volunteers led for all but the first 12 seconds during a first half in which their margin never dropped below three.
• Tennessee’s 46 points in the first half marked its third-most before the intermission this season, including its top such total away from home.
• At least one Volunteer has scored 20-plus points in 11 of the past 13 games, with a total of 14 such performances in that stretch.
• Vescovi passed Alabama’s John Petty (2017-21) for sole possession of eighth place on the SEC’s all-time made 3-pointers leaderboard, as he now owns 314.
• Vescovi has now scored double-digit points in each of the past four games after doing so in just three of the prior 11.
• James became the 12th Volunteer to amass 750 rebounds, as well as passed both Don Johnson (1968-71) and Steve Hamer (1992-96) to move into the No. 11 spot on the all-time Tennessee rebounding list with 753 boards in his career.
• After eight straight games with eight points or fewer, James scored in double digits for the first time since Dec. 21, 2023, versus Tarleton State—that was also the last time he made multiple 3-pointers—while his 26 points marked his top total since Dec. 16, 2023, when he had a then-career-high 23 against NC State in San Antonio, Texas.
• Along with the aforementioned performance versus NC State, the other game in which James logged his prior career best of 23 points was on March 1, 2022, at Georgia.
• After playing just 38 seconds—all against Florida on Jan. 16—in the first seven SEC games of his career, freshman guard Cameron Carr recorded 3:04 of action in the first half, posting his sixth assist and seventh rebound as a Volunteer.
• Aidoo recorded double-digit rebounds for the ninth time as a collegian, including the seventh in 2023-24.
• In addition, Aidoo amassed his sixth double-double at Tennessee, including his fifth this season.
• Knecht’s 16-point performance snapped a six-game streak in which he scored at least 25 in every outing.
• Knecht has scored 16-plus points in all six of his road appearances as a Volunteer, averaging 28.8 points per game in those contests.
• The last SEC player with 16-plus points in six consecutive road games was Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr., who notched a seven-game streak from Jan. 26-March 22, 2022.
• The points/assists double-double marked the seventh as a Volunteer for Zeigler, two more than any other player in program history.
• Per ESPN Stats & Info, Zeigler is the first Volunteer in at least the last 25 seasons (1999-2024) to record a 25-point, 10-assist performance.
• According to ESPN Stats & Info, Zeigler is the second player in the last 25 years (1999-2024) to notch a 25-point, 10-assist showing at Kentucky, joining Missouri’s Phil Pressey, who had 27 and 10 on Feb. 23, 2023, in an overtime loss.
• Prior to Zeigler doing so Saturday, the only two other 20-point, 10-assist double-doubles by a Volunteer in at least the last 20 seasons (2004-24) were by Zeigler himself on Jan. 28, 2023, versus Texas (22 points, 10 assists) and by Jordan Bone on Dec. 19, 2018, against Samford (24 points, 11 assists).
• Zeigler is the first Volunteer in at least the last 20 years to record a 20-point, 10-assist double-double in conference play and/or on the road.
• Over at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24, Zeigler is the only SEC player to register a performance with at least 25 points and 13 assists, while only five others—two did so in overtime—have even notched 25 and 10.
• The last SEC player with 25 points and 10 assists in a game was Auburn’s Sharife Cooper, who had 28 and 12 on Jan. 13, 2021, at Georgia.
• Zeigler’s 13 assists surpassed his prior high of 11, recorded on Feb. 25, 2023, against South Carolina, as well as marked his second time with nine-plus in a true road game, joining the 10 he had at LSU on Jan. 21, 2023.
• Zeigler is the first SEC player with 13 assists in a game since Kentucky’s TyTy Washington notched 17 on Jan. 8, 2022, versus Georgia, and the first SEC player to hit that mark in a road game since Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr., amassed on Feb. 12, 2020, in an overtime game at Auburn.
• The last SEC player with 13 assists in a regulation road game was Florida’s Nick Calathes on Feb. 14, 2009, in a loss at Georgia, while no SEC player has had such a game in a victory in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24).
• Zeigler, whose three collegiate outings with 23-plus points have all come on the road, matched the career-best 26-point mark he set on Jan. 10, 2024, at Mississippi State.
• Zeigler’s 13 assists surpassed his prior high of 11, recorded on Feb. 25, 2023, against South Carolina, as well as marked his second time with nine-plus in a true road game, joining the 10 he had at LSU on Jan. 21, 2023.
• Zeigler is the first SEC player with 13 assists in a game since Kentucky’s TyTy Washington notched 17 on Jan. 8, 2022, versus Georgia, and the first SEC player to hit that mark in a road game since Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr., amassed on Feb. 12, 2020, in an overtime game at Auburn.
• The last SEC player with 13 assists in a regulation road game was Florida’s Nick Calathes on Feb. 14, 2009, in a loss at Georgia, while no SEC player has had such a game in a victory in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24).
• Zeigler, whose three collegiate outings with 23-plus points have all come on the road, matched the career-best 26-point mark he set on Jan. 10, 2024, at Mississippi State.
• The last player to register even 11 assists against Kentucky was Marquette’s Dwyane Wade, who had 11 in a triple-double on March 29, 2003, in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in Minneapolis.
• Zeigler’s 13 assists marked the top total by any player against Kentucky since Vanderbilt’s Billy McCaffrey had 14 on Jan. 13, 1993, and the most by any player on the road at Kentucky in at least the last 62 seasons (1962-2024).
• The 13 assists put Zeigler in a tie for the sixth-most by any player against the Wildcats in at least the last 62 years (1962-2024), matching the mark by North Carolina’s King Rice on Dec. 27, 1989.
• The last time a player had 13-plus assists versus Kentucky away from home was March 31, 1975, when UCLA’s Andre McCarter posted 14 in San Diego in the national championship game.
• The only other players besides Zeigler, Rice and McCarter to record 13-plus assists against Kentucky in at least the last 62 seasons (1962-2024) are Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas (14 on Feb. 26, 1989), Alabama’s Eric Richardson (15 on Feb. 4, 1984) and LSU’s Derrick Taylor (14 on Feb. 27, 1982).
• Zeigler’s 13 assists marked the second-highest total by a Volunteer in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24), trailing only the 14 by Lamonte Turner versus Murray State on Nov. 12, 2019.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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