Tennessee – 63
Texas A&M – 68
COLLEGE STATION, Texas. – Tennessee traveled to Texas to take on the A&M Aggies who were looking to tie Alabama for first place in the SEC basketball standings. Texas A&M would be ready to go at home, and Tennessee would have to be ready to walk into a hostile environment.
They seemed ready off the tip as it was a lightning fast start for the Vols in a way that we had not seen from them since mid-January. Tennessee jumped out to a 9-0 lead against the No. 25 Aggies. A&M started 0-5 on the night giving Tennessee just the opportunity the Vols needed to try to get away from the scoring struggles that had been plaguing them of late. Tennessee had started off great but went cold as they made too many careless mistakes and allowed A&M to bring the game within three. This run was on the back of a flurry of turnovers from the Vols. Both teams would battle the rest of the way in the first half. Tennessee would go on small runs and The Aggies would answer. It continued this way until A&M took their first lead with 51 seconds to play. Those would be the last points scored until Tobe Awaka tied the game for The Vols with less than a second to play.
Tennessee’s guard play was atrocious in the first half as Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi, and Tyreke Key combined for 4-16 from the floor while the team as a whole was 3-15 from three with one of those makes coming from Olivier Nkamhoua. Tennessee was missing still Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Philips and it showed. Rick Barnes would have to rally his team in the locker room to get more of the first five minutes out of his Vols and less of the middle 10. The Tennessee defense was traveling well, as usual, but UT was going to need more offensive production.
As the second half began, Tennessee found a new problem as they committed six fouls in the first three minutes. A&M was able to go on a small run and Rick Barnes was forced to call a timeout with 13 minutes to go in the game as A&M built up a five-point lead. The timeout didn’t help much as Key and Vescovi continued to struggle and A&M turned that lead into a nine-point lead, their largest lead of the night, which matched Tennessee’s largest lead from the first half.
Tennessee, similar to A&M in the first half, was able to claw their way back to a one-point game with 6:30 to go, but could not seem to get over the hump and take the lead as they struggled to find good looks on the offensive side of the floor. With 2:10 to play Ziegler, who was 1-9 from three, took a deep one to go 2-10 and bring the vols within one again. With 46 seconds to go the Aggies would go to the line and put A&M up 64-61. The next trip down the floor was going to be a crucial one for the Vols and a timeout would be called.
from waaaaaaaay downtown
📲 https://t.co/lKNOefw1Pj pic.twitter.com/4QbUw9ldnc
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) February 22, 2023
With 30 seconds to play a Nkamhoua three came up short and the ball was knocked out of bounds. The call was out off of Tennessee’s Mashack, but the call was overturned. Tennessee ball, down three, with 30 seconds to go. Zakai Zeigler converted a tough two and the lead was back to one with just 25 seconds to go. Tennessee was once again in a late game war. Which way would this one fall? A&M inbounded a ball that was knocked around but was able to call a timeout to retain possession. They would have to inbound again. They inbounded and Vescovi stole the ball. It seemed The Vols would get the final shot, but Wade Taylor stole the ball back for A&M and was sent to the line. He made both and it was a three-point lead with 17 seconds to go. A Zeigler three came up way short and that was the game. After two free throws A&M survived at home and moved into a tie with Alabama with a 68-63 win.
Wade Taylor IV led all scorers with 25 points. Santiago Vescovi led Tennessee with 14. Vescovi led all players with 10 rebounds, and Julius Marble led A&M with nine. Santiago Vescovi led all players with seven assists, while Andre Gordon led A&M with three.
This is what Tennessee Head Coach, Rick Barnes, had to say post-game via Ben McKee of Govols247 on Twitter:
#Vols coach Rick Barnes: Really proud of the effort. They fought. We did. We just have to stop fouling three-point shooters. Plays like that we have to stop.
— Ben McKee (@benmckee14) February 22, 2023
Tennessee’s next game is against South Carolina in Knoxville at 5:00 on Saturday.