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Nkamhua, Zeigler lead Vols past Longhorns

 Brian Hartman   in Basketball

Tennessee controlled its matchup from Texas from the start. 

No. 10 Texas got a glimpse of what life on the road in the Southeastern Conference will look like when they eventually become a league member, falling 82-71 to fourth-ranked Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday. 

Olivier Nkamhoua scored a career-high 27 points and added eight rebounds, while Zakai Zeigler scored 22 points and tied a career high with 10 assists. Josiah-Jordan James added 14 points for the Vols (18-3). 

The Vols shot 55.6% from the floor, their third-best shooting percentage in a game this season.

“He was absolutely terrific,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of Nkamhoua. “It started yesterday in practice. It was the best practice he's ever had. I'm so happy for him. That was special.”

The  Vols took the lead for good courtesy of  a 9-0 run to take a 26-17 lead with 7:08 to play in the first half. Texas missed nine straight shots as Tennessee took control.

Santiago Vescovi (12 points, eight assists) hit a big 3 during that decisive spurt. Vescovi finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds.

Tennessee out-rebounded Texas, 38-23. 

“If we continue to improve the way that we are, we'll be one of the best offenses in the country. Because our defense is set up to lead our offense.” Nkamhoua said. 

Many of Zeiglar’s assists were handed to Nkamhoua, who hit the 14-point mark with 3:30 still to play in the first half. Nkamhoua shot 12-of-15 from the floor. 

Zeigler's 3 pointer followed by his steal (which led to two free throws) gave Tennessee a 38-24 lead late in the first half. It was Tennessee's biggest lead of the first half. The Vols led 40-28 at halftime. 

The Vols started the second half similar to how they finished the first half. Zeigler hit back-to-back 3s to extend the lead to 17. Vescovi's 3 pointer  pushed the advantage to 61-39 with 13:48 left. 

Texas made a late run but never got closer than 11 points, which was the final victory margin. 

Marcus Carr, the Longhorns leading scorer (18 ppg) didn't score until early in the second half due to first half foul trouble. Carr finished with 11 points but shot 4-of-12 from the floor. Sir'Jabari Rice kept Texas competitive while his teammates struggled. Rice led Texas in scoring with 21 points.

Afterwards, Texas coach Rodney Terry said the Vols "have all the ingredients of being a Final Four team."

No 3s for you

Texas shot 29.3% from 3. No opponent has shot better than 33% from 3 all season against Tennessee. The Vols lead the nation in 3-pt percentage defense, holding opponents to 21% on the season. 


Tonight was only the second game in the history of Thompson Boling Arena that featured two teams who were ranked in the AP top 10 at game time. Tennessee beat Kentucky 71-52 in February on 2019. 

Gators up next

The Vols will travel to Gainesville for a Wednesday night battle against the Florida Gators. Florida lost to Kansas St 64-50 Saturday night. The Gators are 12-9 on the season, 2-3 in the SEC. Tip time is 7:00 Eastern on ESPN2.