Hot shooting #22 Vols win at South Carolina, 81-57
COLUMBIA, S.C. (UT Athletics) – Tennessee’s backcourt delivered standout offensive performances and the No. 22 Vols came away with a convincing 81-57 win on the road Saturday over South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena.
Charleston, South Carolina, native Josiah-Jordan James led the Vols in scoring and finished with a career-high 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting, making four 3-pointers.
SEC Sixth Man of the Year candidate Zakai Zeigler, who was held scoreless in the first half, finished the game with a career-high-tying 18 points. In the second half, Zeigler was 6-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
Kennedy Chandler recorded his second career double-double—scoring 11 points and dishing out 10 assists. Santiago Vescovi was Tennessee’s fourth double figure scorer, finishing with 13 points.
James, Zeigler and Chandler also each had three steals on the defensive end.
As a team, Tennessee hit 14 3-pointers on Saturday, its most in an SEC game this season.
After Tennessee (16-6, 7-3 SEC) took a four point lead into halftime, the Vols and Gamecocks battled evenly for the first four minutes of the second half before Tennessee blew the game open with a 24-4 run spanning from the 16:04 mark to the 9:07 mark—extending its lead from one to 21 in the process.
Olivier Nkamhoua started the run with a layup before Zeigler put it into full speed with back-to-back threes that put Tennessee ahead by 11 with 13:48 remaining. Zeigler quickly followed up his back-to-back threes with a mid-range jumper and then a pair of free throws, ultimately scoring 10 straight points by himself.
Defensively, Tennessee held South Carolina to just four made field goals in the final 16 minutes of the game.
After a closely contested first half, Tennessee took a 33-29 lead into the halftime break.
Tennessee raced out of to a 16-9 lead to open the game, hitting six of its first nine shots—four of which were 3-pointers.
Despite Tennessee’s fast start, South Carolina was able to use a five and a half minute scoring drought from the Vols to climb back into the game and regain the lead on two occasions before the Vols closed the opening period on a 7-1 run.
James shouldered the load offensively for the Vols in the first half, scoring 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
Just 18 minutes into the game, James had already achieved a season-high in scoring, eclipsing his previous high of 14 that was set on Tuesday against Texas A&M.
UP NEXT: Tennessee is on the road for a second consecutive game, heading to Starkville, Mississippi, to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
JAMES CONTINUING HIS HOT STREAK: In his last seven full games, Josiah-Jordan James is averaging 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 41 percent (16-for-39) from 3-point range (James left due to injury and did not return after just four minutes at Vanderbilt on Jan. 18).