From the onset, the Vols defense had no answer for the Aggies’ Wade Taylor and Tyrece Radford, as the duo poured in a combined 52 points and seven 3s. By contrast, UT shot just 37 percent from the field and lost by a 69-85 figure that still somehow belies how close the game actually was.
With under 15 minutes left in the game, Tennessee’s deficit crept all the way to 22 points, while UT spent the majority of the game with Dalton Knecht as the teams’ only double-figure scorer. As good as the Vols’ offense has been lately, it was the defense that pulled a no show in College Station. UT allowed the Aggies to shoot nearly 48 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep.
Tennessee played most of the first 8-10 minutes of the first half down 7-9 points, thanks in large part to the Aggies hitting five of their first seven 3s and the Vols turning the ball over three times in the first 10-ish minutes of the game.
A&M stretched its lead out to 27-15 after making its sixth 3 of the contest. The Aggies got called for a technical foul following the show, but Zakai Zielger made just one of the two free throws, and Santiago Vescovi missed the layup on the following possession.
The Aggies went out to a 12-1 run by the 8:25 mark, while UT finally broke a nearly five-minute scoreless streak from a Dalton Knecht 3-ball.
A&M owned the glass for most of the glass but particularly in the first half. Now, that’s not totally surprising since they’re the No. 1 rebounding team in the SEC, but with just under six minutes left, Texas A&M led the battle on the glass 17-10 and had outrebounded the Vols on the offensive glass 5-1. That helped Buzz Williams and crew to 10 points in the paint and five second chance points, which in turned helped the Aggies jump out to such a quick lead.
Wade Taylor was the offensive catalyst for A&M from the jump, hitting 5-9 from the field and 5-6 from deep. Dalton Knecht was UT’s only real answer offensively, as he had 10 points in the first 14 minutes while no other Vols had notched more than four points.
The Aggies hit a tough layup with 4:40-ish left and led 37 24 before Jonas Aidoo answered with his own layup and third bucket of the game.
Texas A&M finished the half missing their final five shots and didn’t score a point for the final 3-plus minutes, but Tennessee couldn’t cut into the Aggies 42-28 lead. The Vols shot just 37 percent from the field, hit just 3-13 from downtown and got outrebounded 22-16.
Zakai Ziegler finished the game with six rebounds and six assists, to go along with his 15 points — 12 of which came in the game’s final half — and that was just about the lone bright spot for UT’s offense outside of Knecht’s 22 points.
A&M played the first half with much more urgency, toughness and forced the Vols to play their game. At this point, the was a lot of game left to be played, but UT looked pretty shell-shocked, and it seemed like a longshot that the Tennessee would battle back and make this a legit contest.
The two teams traded turnovers in the first two minutes of the second half until A&M missed a shot, tipped out a long rebound and hit its 9th 3 of the game to make it a 45-28 lead with 17:50 left.
Its not often we see the Vols get flat outworked on the glass, but the Aggies owned the Vols on the boards all game, and by the under-18 media break, it resulted in eight extra possessions for the home team.
Tennessee went the first five minutes of the second half without making a field goal, while Wade Taylor hit another running layup, one that came off another long offensive rebound from an initial missed 3, at the 15:33 mark, to make it a 48-28 game in favor of the Aggies.
UT implemented a full-court press around the 13-minute mark, induced a steal and layup to cut the lead down to 19, but on A&M’s next trip down the floor, the Aggies missed a shot and Anderson Garcia collected his 12th rebound (fifth offensive) to give A&M another possession. Water continues to be wet. 53-34 Aggies with Taylor at the line shooting two free throws.
The last 10-ish minutes of the second half was more of the same — Tennessee was unable to stop the ball and was consistently late on defensive rotations that led to open shots from deep.
For the Vols, Knecht and Zeigler were the only two players to score 10 or more — Its worth noting that most of Ziegler’s damage came after halftime — while UT had no players who finished with a positive plus/minus mark.
Barnes subbed Knecht out of the game around the 10-minute mark due in part to his disappointment in Dalton’s defensive effort and the four fouls in his 23 minutes of game action. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Knecht returned to the game. Officially, he played just 12 second-half minutes.
Jordan Gainey, Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi combined for 13 points on 1-7 from deep and 4-18 shooting overall. Jahmai Mashack was the next closest Vol to a double-figure scoring night with eight points. He added five rebounds but had three fouls, too. Every Vol who logged any minutes recorded at least three fouls.
Tennessee never led and managed to tie the game for just 30 seconds.
The Vols next game comes at Arkansas on Valentines Day when they face off against the Hogs who are 12-11 overall and just 3-7 in the SEC.