UT was led by a trio of double-digit scorers: Santiago Vescovi led the way with 17 points, while Josiah-Jordan James had 16 and Kennedy Chandler added 14.
The Vols’ offense was fueled by a blistering outside shooting performance, as Vescovi, James and Chandler combined for 11 of Tennessee’s 12 made 3s. The Vols shot 43 percent from deep and 39 percent from the field overall.
UT never trailed in the game after jumping out to a 16-2 lead in the game’s first six-ish minutes. Tennessee scored just 13 points through the next 13 minutes of the first half, but the Volunteer defense that’s been so consistent this year smothered Texas A&M and forced the Aggies into eight first-half TOs that the Vols turned into 10 points.
Tennessee took a 29-22 lead into halftime and proceeded to outscore A&M 24-16 in the first 10-ish minutes of the second half. That stretch was bolstered by nine-straight Vescovi points via two consecutive made 3s and three makes at the FT line after being fouled on a jumper from behind the arc.
With around nine minutes left, James went on a scoring run of his own by hitting back-to-back 3s, the second of which broke a nearly three-minute Tennessee scoring drought. Tennessee’s ability to lean on James recently, especially when the offense is bogging down, has been invaluable to the Vols winning 13 of their last 14 games.
The closest A&M got in the second half was down 13 after a quick 5-0 run from the 4:35 mark to the 3:12 mark, but Tennessee was able to withstand A&M’s late high-pressure, full-court trapping defense and didn’t commit a turnover inside the game’s final four minutes. It’s worth noting, though, that as important as Kennedy Chandler’s been to Tennessee’s offense recently, he missed another free throw inside the final minute of today’s game.
The Vols went 9-14 from the free-throw line today, but that overall 64-percent mark today, a 71-percent figure for the season and a propensity for a key ball handler to miss free throws late in games might be something to keep an eye on once the NCAA Tournament starts.
I don’t wanna dwell on anything negative, and in Tennessee’s last nine games, Chandler’s averaging 15.4 points and is shooting a scorching 44 percent from deep. Similarly, since the Texas game, James is scoring 14-ish points per-game and shooting around 40 percent on his 3s. James stat line is just silly — he added 10 rebounds, three blocks and a steal to those 16 points.
I’m not sure which guy I’d give the SEC Tournament MVP to — I think Chandler officially won it — but him and James have been incredibly instrumental in Tennessee’s late-season resurgence and will be critical to the Vols’ chances to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAAT selection show is tonight at 6 PM — so keep an eye out for which seed the Vols earn and what that bracket ends up looking like.
Here’s some tweets from after the game, just because I want y’all to take a moment and bask in the glory with me.