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HOOPS RECAP: Aggies own the free-throw line, UT turns it over 16 times and Texas A&M wins 68-63

Can we call this a spiral yet?

Tennessee v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Still playing without Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips, Tennessee went into College Station to play Texas A&M — the second-ranked team in the SEC that’s unbeaten at home — and surrendered 30 free-throw attempts and 15 turnovers. Texas A&M’s Wade Taylor dropped 25, 16 of which came at the free-throw line, en route to the Aggies 68-63 win.

A&M hit 28 of its 34 free-throw attempts, while Tennessee made 10 of its 14.

For whatever reason, because there’s no way to know what to expect from this team right now, Tennessee started out strong against Texas A&M.

Jonas Aidoo hit a couple free throws when he got fouled on a shot near the hoop, Jahmai Mashack drilled a straight-away 3 that came off an Aggie turnover, Aidoo hit a baby hook in the lane and then Zakai Ziegler hit a driving layup to give the Vols a 9-0 lead with just fewer than 17 minutes in the half.

A&M got on the scoreboard on a second-chance opportunity after Aidoo blocked the Aggies’ first attempt near the rim.

Around the 14:40 mark, Tyreke Key missed a jumper but Ziegler was there to snag the rebound and put up the bucket for two second-chance points. Key’s one for his last 14 in his last two games. You want him to keep shooting, but goodness the shots gotta start dropping soon.

A&M cut the Vols’ lead to 11-6 with a 3 that came off a turnover, but Tennessee answered with another Aidoo bucket at the rim. 13-6 Vols with 11:53 left until half.

When Aidoo went to the bench, Tobe Awaka came in, and A&M immediately went inside and took advantage of Awaka’s height to score over/through him. Vescovi turned the ball over on two consecutive possessions, and an Aggie deep-2 cut the UT lead to 13-10 at the under-12 break.

With 9:28 til half, Olivier Nkamhoua hit his first 3 in two games — he’d missed seven straight — which came off a turnover, and then Vescovi hit his first 3 of the game, also thanks to an Aggie giveaway. Right before the under-eight timeout, Vescovi missed his second 3 of the half, but Awaka was under the rim and had an easy put-back layup. That was the Vols’ 10th point in the paint and sixth second-chance point up to this juncture in the contest. UT held a 21-14 lead with 6:49 remaining until halftime.

A&M cut the lead to 21-17 with an and-1 layup from Wade Taylor when he converted a layup despite initiating contact with Mashack on the drive. Good defense from Jahmai — I guess just a good make from Taylor.

Nkamhoua stretched UT’s lead to 24-17 with an and-1 layup and FT conversion, but Santi fouled Taylor on a 3-point attempt, and Taylor hit all three of the freebies. 24-20 Vols.

On UT’s next possession, the offense dribbled around the perimeter until Ziegler threw up an airball as the shot clock expired. With about 4:30 left, Tyreke Key finally hit a 3 on an offensive possession where the defense was so concerned with Santi that A&M left Key wide open.

Key hit another 3 on the Vols’ subsequent possession, but it got wiped off as the refs called a charge on Ziegler as he was probing the defense to kick it out to a shooter. Vols leading 27-21 at the under-four media timeout.

After the timeout, A&M drilled a wide-open 3, and Tennessee’s possession ended up with Tobe Awaka at the free-throw line, where he naturally missed the front-end of the one-and-one chance. Tennessee got the rebound, but Santi missed the pump-fake, side-step 3.

Taylor put the brakes on a cut and drew a foul on Key, which led to two made Aggie FTs. Ziegler immediately turned it over, but A&M missed an early look and Santi pump-faked, drove and found Awaka for a layup at the rim.

A&M got two-straight offensive boards on its next possession, and Tyrece Radford converted it into two points.

The Aggies took their first lead after a Tennessee turnover — its ninth of the half — as A&M punished UT with a 3 to take its first lead of the game at 31-29.

With fewer than seven second left, Santi streaked down the floor, nearly turned it over at the hoop, but Awaka snagged it and hit the layup before the halftime clock expired. 31-31 tie game at the break.

Wade Taylor scored 15 first-half points, making his season average in just 20 minutes.

Tennessee hit just three of its 15 first-half 3-point attempts and turned the ball over nine times.

Nkamhoua opened the second half with two points near the rim — his eighth points of the game on 3-5 shooting, but A&M came straight back down, drew a shooting foul against Ziegler and hit both FTs.

Ziegler banked in an ugly 3 to give the Vols a 36-33 lead, but the Aggies took the lead back by drawing its fourth foul in the first 1:30 of the second half. A&M up 37-36 with 18:16 left. Tennessee was 4-7 from the FT line at this point, while the Aggies had hit 14 of 17 attempts.

The Vols turned it over on a shot clock violation, and the Texas A&M drew fouls five and six — one of those being Ziegler’s third — and the Aggies were in the midst of a 7-0 run that gave them a 40-36 lead.

Santi cut the A&M lead to one with his second 3 of the game off an Aggie giveaway, and another Aggie foul took the broadcast to the under-16 break with Texas A&M up 40-39.

Texas A&M went on an 8-0 run in which four of those points came via Vol turnovers, and this is the point in the game where you can just see that it ain’t a light at the end of the tunnel — it’s an oncoming train. The Tennessee guards — Santi, Zakai and Key — had combined to shoot 6-24 from the field, and the defense created just nine turnovers to this point. Aggies up 46-41 with 12:39 left.

WIth 12 minutes left, Aidoo picked up his fourth foul, which led to free throws 22 and 23 for A&M.

Santi hit a 3 with 11:25 left to cut the Aggies’ lead down to just six, but A&M stretched it back out to eight with two more free throws.

Tobe Awaka hit two free throws, then forced an A&M turnover on a trap of Wade Taylor that ended up as two Nkamhoua made-free throws. That cut the lead to four, but Texas A&M immediately went straight to the hoop for another layup for A&M’s Radford.

With 9:43 left, Nkamhoua hit a 3 to cut the Aggie lead down to 54-51 and then Mashack forced a steal, but then turned the ball over on two-straight possessions before Radford drained a fastbreak 3.

Santi hit another 3 on the Vols’ next possession, then an Nkamhoua block led to a Ziegler run-out layup. All the sudden, it’s 57-56 A&M with just fewer than seven minutes remaining.

After the timeout, the Aggies got a layup, and Santi turned it over on a travel. Big sigh.

At the 2:16 mark, Ziegler hit his second 3 of the game to cut A&M’s lead to 62-61 off an A&M turnover. Don’t break out the defibrillator yet.

Ziegler drove into the trees for a floater with about a minute left, and it didn’t drop. Then, of course, A&M drew free throws on the other end. They hit both to effectively end the game, even though Tennessee was just down 3 with 45 seconds left. By this point, we know how this one ends.

Santi got a steal with 17 second left, and A&M’s Taylor stole it right back and drained two game-sealing free throws.


  • The Vols made this a ball game with two of its five starters. That’s something, right?
  • Tennessee shot 44 percent in the first half but just 37 percent in the second half. The equalizer: The Vols hit 3-15 from deep in the first half but hit 6-15 in the second half
  • Ziegler had four points, two assists and four turnovers in the first half, but responded 10 points, two 3s and zero turnovers in the game’s final 20 minutes
  • UT had 20 points off 14 A&M turnovers, hit nine of its 10 layups and had 24 points in the paint
  • Jonas Aidoo had six points, five rebounds and two blocks in the first half, but he also had two fouls. He picked up his remaining three fouls to foul out in just six minutes of the second half
  • The Vols had four double-digit scorers: Zakai (14), Olivier (13), Santi (13) and Awaka (10).
  • UT turned the ball over 16 times, and A&M scored 17 points off those turnovers
  • Tennessee has now lost five of its last seven games