Tennessee faced a different style on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, but they reached a similar result. The Volunteers handled Eastern Kentucky’s aggressive, trapping, tempo-based system with ease, firmly separating themselves quickly in the second half.
A slow start from Tennessee was quickly overcome, even without the services of senior guard Santiago Vescovi. Vescovi, who is dealing with a shoulder sprain, missed his second straight game.
Once again, Rick Barnes turned to Jahmai Mashack to start in his place. Eastern Kentucky jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and it took the Tennessee offense about ten minutes to find its footing. EKU was trapping and pressing, and the Volunteers took several minutes to settle in. But once they did, this one was over.
Tyreke Key hit a three to give Tennessee their first lead at 12-11, and the Volunteers would pour it on from there. A balanced offensive attack set Tennessee off on a run to close the first half, and that suffocating defense started to look like the unit we had seen all year long.
Zakai Zeigler, Josiah-Jordan James, Jahmai Mashack and Tyreke Key powered the run that set the Volunteers apart for good — a 19-4 run that stretched beyond the halftime break. Eastern Kentucky connected on just one of their next 17 shots during that same stretch.
Tennessee rolled from there, coasting to an 84-49 victory.
An aggressive Tyreke Key paced Tennessee, hitting shots and getting to the free throw line. He ended up leading the game with 17 points.
As you would expect them to do, Tennessee won the battle in the paint. They dominated the rebounding battle, while scoring 38 points down low vs. EKU’s 18.
Julian Phillips worked his way to a double double, putting up 16 points and ten rebounds.
Josiah-Jordan James played 17 minutes tonight as the staff hopes to have him ready to roll fully on Sunday against Maryland. Tennessee has the Terrapins up next, followed by a road game at Arizona. Obviously, they’ll need James and Vescovi for both of those.
Tip-off between Maryland and Tennessee is set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon.