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Vols hoops game RECAP: Tennessee easily handles Ole Miss 90-64 in their conference opener

Starting conference play in the win column

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee opened conference play tonight against undefeated Ole Miss, and after a rocky end to non-conference play against some meddling opponents, it was understandable to wonder how Tennessee would play against their first ranked team in nearly a month. To put it lightly, they dominated. Led by absurd performances from Jonas Aidoo and Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee beat the Rebels 90-64, and to be honest with you, it didn’t feel that close.

In addition to 24 points and 10 rebounds from Aidoo and 17 points and 10 assists from Zeigler, Tennessee got 11 points from Santiago Vescovi on 37.5 percent shooting from deep.

The real takeaway from this game though is just how easily Tennessee was able to control the glass. Despite have two seven-footers that played over 15 minutes, the Vols nearly doubled Ole Miss’ rebound totals - 47-24. It was Tennessee’s tenacity on the offensive boards that really stood out, totaling 20, yes TWENTY, offensive rebounds that lead to 19 second-chance points.

Tennessee opened up the game on a 18-6 run, but slowly saw the lead dwindle thanks to a combination of live-ball turnovers and inability to hit open looks from three. It was, of all players, Jahmai Mashack who provided an offensive spark off the bench, hitting two threes late in the first half allowing Tennessee to maintain momentum. The Vols went into halftime up 40-31.

The second half, well, the second half was one of the best all-around performances Tennessee has had in quite some time. They opened the half with a set play to Dalton Knecht, which immediately sent the standout transfer to the free throw line. Knecht hit one free throw, pushing the lead to 10, and that was the closest Ole Miss would get for the rest of the game.

For Ole Miss tonight, they were led by senior forward Jaemyn Brakefield, who scored 22 points on an impressive 87% shooting from the field. The Rebels finished the game with three players in double figures.

Dalton Knecht found a way to score eight points on 50 percent shooting despite playing limited minutes — partially due to foul trouble, and partially to let him rest his ankle. Josiah Jordan-James filled the stat sheet once again tonight, totaling eight points, eight rebounds and four assists. The fifth-year Volunteer continues to play at a high-level in first fully healthy season for Tennessee.

Following the decisive victory over Ole Miss, it’s safe to expect the Vols to firmly remain in the Top 5 of next week’s AP poll. Up next, another team from Mississippi as Tennessee will travel to Starkville on Wednesday, January 10. The Bulldogs will look to bounce back from today’s loss to South Carolina while Tennessee looks to get their first road win in conference play.

If you couldn’t catch tonight’s game, you can find the full box score here.