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HOOPS RECAP: Vols crack Alcorn State, 94-40

The Vols hold their sixth opponent to 50 points or less this season

NCAA Basketball: Alcorn State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The second game of Tennessee’s current three-game homestand went pretty similarly to the first (70-46 win against McNeese), with the Vols overwhelming Alcorn State 94-40.

Josiah-Jordan James got his first action of the season, while Santiago Vescovi sat out with a shoulder strain.

UT held Alcorn to just four points through the first 10-ish minutes of the game, forcing sub-20-percent shooting from the field. Tyreke Key hit a couple early 3s, while Julian Phillips continued to provide a to-the-rim threat that Tennessee misses without Kennedy Chandler on the floor. Phillips started the game 3-3 from the field, with all of his attempts coming at the hoop. He got fouled on one of them, converted the free throw and led the Vols with seven points at the under-eight media timeout.

A Zakai Ziegler 3 gave the Vols a 31-12 lead with just under seven minutes left in the half, and then on Alcorn’s next trip down the floor, Ziegler’s third steal of the night led to another layup for Phillips on a run out.

Key’s third 3 of the game made it 38-12 and capped off a 10-0 Vols’ run. State answered with a bucket, but a Triple-J drive sucked in the defense and left Phillips open to drill a corner 3.

At the under-four media timeout, Tennessee’s lead had swelled to 41-14 with the Vols scoring 17 points off 10 Alcorn turnovers. The Vols shot 64 percent from the field and hit five of their 11 3s through the first 16-ish minutes of the game.

Without Vescovi, it’s worth noting that BJ Edwards saw his earliest action of the season and had two assists in his first five minutes of first-half playing time so far this year.

The Volunteer defense gave up back-to-back layups around the three-minute mark, but a dunk and two made free throws from Olivier Nkamhoua on back-to-back possessions ended State’s mini-run relatively quick. Nkamhoua continues to be a bit of a mixed bag this year — he had two of Tennessee’s three first-half turnovers and still hasn’t found his 2021, pre-injury form. UT ran the last play of the half to get Olivier a look right in front of the basket, but he missed a bunny. Phillips corralled the offensive board and hit the two FTs he got when he was fouled as he was trying to put up a shot near the goal.

Tennessee more than doubled up Alcorn State in the first half — 49-22 — with Phillips leading the way with 14 points and four rebounds on 5-7 shooting from the field that included a 3-3 mark from the free throw line. Mashack tied Phillips for the team lead in rebounds (three came on the offensive side) and had five points in just 11 minutes. James played just six minutes and missed his only two shots (both from beyond the arc). Unlike a few recent games, the offense wasn’t loose with the ball early. The Vols committed just three first-half turnovers.

The second half started with the defense creating three steals on Alcorn State’s first four possessions — those steals led to two Phillips FT makes, an Nkamhoua 3 and a run-out jam for Mashack.

At the under-16 stoppage, the Vols had forced six State giveaways in just over five minutes of the second half and Mashack was responsible for three of Tennessee’s four steals up to that juncture.

Nkamhoua musta heard me talking mess about him earlier in this story, because he came out in the second half and had a team-leading eight second-half points on 3-3 shooting by the 11:56 mark. It was nice to see the guards make the entry passes and Nkamhoua convert a couple tough looks around the basket.

The Vols went up 78-30 on an Nkamhoua dunk that started from a Ziegler’s fifth steal of the game just under the 10-minute mark, and freshman big man Tobe Awaka’s dunk accounted for points 79 and 80 on the next possession.

Around the five-minute mark, Mashack hit a 3 and set a career high with 13 points that pushed the Vols’ lead to 88-34.

By the final whistle, Nkamhoua ended up leading Tennessee in scoring with 20 points. He shot 6-9 from the field, 7-7 from the FT line and added four rebounds and a team-high six assists.


  • Mashack was extremely effective in his first career start in place of Vescovi: 13 points on 50-percent shooting with seven rebounds and four steals
  • The Vols had 27 assists on 33 made field goals for another absurd assist-percentage outing (those figures math out to 81 percent) — before tonight’s game, Tennessee ranked 5th nationally with a 63-percent average assist percentage
  • James played just 14 minutes and had two points on 1-5 shooting, though he added three rebounds, two assists and one steal
  • Tennessee had six players score in double figures: Olivier (20), Phillips (18), Mashack (13), Plavsic (12), Key (11) and Ziegler (10)
  • The Vols attempted 20 or more free throws 11 times in 35 games last season — after tonight, they’ve attempted at least 20 free throws in six of their eight games so far this year
  • Jonas Aidoo once again tied for the team lead in rebounds (seven) and played 22 minutes to Plavsic’s 16
  • UT had 50 points in the paint and 36 points off 22 Alcorn State turnovers
  • The offense finished with 11 turnovers and has had at least 10 in all eight games this year

Tennessee gets one more tune-up game against Eastern Kentucky — next Wednesday — before back-to-back road games against currently No. 22-ranked Maryland and No. 4-ranked Arizona.