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HOOPS RECAP: Vols fall to Arizona, 75-70

A tough loss to a good team

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Arizona Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a career-high 21 points from Zakai Ziegler, Arizona avenged their loss at Thompson-Boling Area last season with a 75-70 win late Saturday night.

This one started out quick, with both team getting into double figures less than three minutes into the game. Tennessee opened with 3s on back-to-back possessions from Tyreke Key and Santiago Vescovi, while Arizona’s dynamic duo under the rim, Ourma Dallo and Azuolas Tubelis, scored on second-chance opportunities at the rim,

Back-to-back FTs and a Dallo field goal gave Arizona an 11-10 with 17:10 remaining in the game, then neither team scored for nearly two minutes, with the scoreless stretch breaking on a Dallo layup. Ziegler hit a 3 on the other end, making it 13-13 with 14-ish minutes left.

Jonas Aidoo hit a nice little hook shot to give the Vols the lead back, but Arizona immediately answered with another easy bucket at the rim. The teams exchanged hoops a few more times — the last of which was a Ziegler 3 making it 19-18 Vols — and then a Tobe Awaka offensive board drew an Arizona foul, which Tennessee converted into a 3 from Olivier Nkamhoua.

Another stretch of the two teams trading baskets, both shots at the rim, had he Vols ahead 24-20 at the 9:40 mark. Nkamhoua struck from deep again after an Uros Plavsic steal turned into a turnover via a Ziegler offensive foul, but Ballo missed a rare attempt at the rim on the other end and Nkamhoua’s 3 following that miss gave the Vols a 27-24 lead at the 8:29 mark.

But, seemingly how during last year’s game the officiating was tilted toward Tennessee, Arizona was getting the benefit of the whistle Saturday. Starting at the 7-ish minute mark, ‘Zona went on a 10-2 run that started via a Julian Phillips offensive foul/ turnover and included fouls on Aidoo, Tyreke Key and Plavsic.

By halftime, the game was tied 35-35, with the Vols attempting zero free-throw attempts and no points from Phillips. Tennessee managed to stay in the game by forcing 12 turnovers and scoring 10 points off those giveaways.

Plavsic picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half, and Ballo hit the layup and the free throw to make it a 3-point play. Tobe Awaka scored Tennessee’s first two baskets of the second half, each of which stopped a multiple-basket scoring streak rom the Wildcats. Arizona won the first few minutes of the second half, as it took a tied game and turned it into a 45-39 lead with 15:51 left.

Tennessee attempted its first free throws of the game at this juncture, as an Arizona defender fouled Vescovi on a deep-two shot attempt. He hit both free throws.

The next possession, Awaka picked up his fourth foul. By this point in the game, Tennessee’s post was just wraught with foul issues. Plavsic: three, Aidoo: two, Awaka: four, Nkamhoua two.

Aidoo picked up his third foul with 14:38 remaining, and you could kinda feel the way this one was gonna finish. Arizona’s lead was 49-43 with 14:38 left in the game.

Ziegler got a steal and layup to chip Arizona’s lead back down 49-45, but Phillips got called for a foul the Wildcats’ next possession, with Tubelis draped all over his back. That was the Vols’ seventh foul of the half, so Tubelis both free throws after hitting the front end of the one-and-one chance. The Wildcats got to shoot freebies the on any foul the rest of the way.

At the under-12 media timeout, Arizona led 54-49, and it was Ziegler keeping the Vols in the game. He scored layups on back-to-back Tennessee possessions, with the first one coming off a steal he created. Worth noting: Tennessee’s 3-point shooting went cold in the second half. After hitting five 3s in the first half, the Vols were 0-4 from deep with 10:-46 left.

Another Tubelis offensive rebounds turned into two points near with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game, and then neither team scored until the 8:31 mark when Tubelis made it 58-51 with another layup. During that span, Tennessee missed two 3s, two free throws and an Nkamhoua jumper, with all that exacerbated by turnovers from Key, Jahmai Mashack and a shot-clock violation.

Arizona bombed in a 3 off that shot clock turnover to give it a 10 point lead with 7:22 left, but then the officials called a technical on the Wildcat bench for some kinda foul due to celebration after the made 3 that netted two made Ziegler free throws and made it a 61-53 Cats’ lead. Vescovi hit a layup and that technical caused a four-point swing. Arizona hit two FTs on the next trip down the floor, but Ziegler and Key hit 3s on back-to-back possessions that counted toward a 10-2 run and put UT within two at 63-61 with under six minutes to play.

Vescovi got called for another foul on Arizona’s following possession, but the Cats hit just one of the two attempts. Nkamhoua hit a jumper in the lane to make it a one-point game at the five-minute mark. The Vols gave up a tough jumper to Arizona on defense, but a Wildcat foul sent Tennessee into the bonus, and Vescovi hit both free throws.

At 66-65 Arizona, Tennessee had the ball and a chance to take the lead, but Key threw a pass to, well, I don’t know who, and the ball went sailing onto the other end of the court and the Vols got tagged with another turnover — its sixth of the half to that point.

At the 2:30 mark, Ziegler got beat back door, and Nkamhoua fouled Pelle Larsson to give the Cats an old-fashioned 3-point play. After that Key over-and-back turnover, Arizona scored three-straight layups while the Vols missed three 3-point tries. With 1:44 left, the Wildcats led 71-65.

Nkamhoua made another jumper in the lane, and Arizona turned it over by stepping in bounds while trying to inbound it. With 1:22 left, Vescovi missed a wide-open 3 that would have cut the lead down back to just one. Key got a decent look that didn’t fall, but at that point, it was down to foul shots, and Arizona made theirs.


  • Both teams shots an overall 43 percent from the field, but Tennessee hit just eight of its 27 attempts from deep
  • Arizona hit 24-27 from the free-throw line, while the Vols attempted just 10 and made eight of them
  • Julian Phillips really, really struggled: two points on 0-5 shooting with one rebound, one assist and two turnovers. Tennessee needed his ability to generate FTs — he’s a major reason why the Vols have been getting to the line so much more often this year
  • Ziegler led the Vols with 21 on an incredibly efficient 8-11 from the field, including 3-6 from deep. Nkamhoua was the only other Vol to score in double figures — he had 16 and hit two of his four tries from beyond the arc
  • Vescovi finished with nine points on 2-12 shooting and hit just one of his nine shots from 3
  • UT’s bench outscored ‘Zona’s 29-0, but the Wildcats outrebounded the Vols 38-30 and had 15 second-chance points compared to just two from Tennessee
  • Tyreke Key had eight points on 3-10 shooting and was the only Volunteer who had fewer than two fouls. It sure would be nice to see the Tyreke Key we watched against Gonzaga, as Tennessee needed somebody other than Ziegler to be able to just go get a bucket.