Cotton Bowl Preview: Alabama Are Rightfully Favorites Vs. Cincinnati
Tennessee dropped its SEC opener at Alabama Wednesday night, 73-68. The Vols were without two starters — Kennedy Chandler and John Fulkerson — but led for over 27 minutes before the Crimson Tide came rolling back for the win.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “I thought we fought and we didn’t score when we had a chance to do it sometimes and missed some shots we’d like to make.”
Tennessee’s scoring was balanced with Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi and Olivier Nkamhoua all scoring in double digits. Nkamhoua led the way with 15 points while Vescovi added 13 and Zeigler added 11.
Chandler’s absence thrusted Zeigler into a much bigger role as the freshman point guard was the driving force in the Vols’ offense.
Tennessee’s defense carried the load again for the Vols Wednesday night. UT held Alabama to 10 points less than its season average and unusually mixed in a zone defense to rattle the Crimson Tide in the second half.
“We knew we would go to it,” Barnes said. “I think our guys understood what we were trying to get out of it and we made a couple there at the end, a couple possessions where our wings didn’t get high enough and we didn’t fan it back in when they had a guy in the corner. Overall, it was good and we knew we could use it.”
Barnes also discussed why Victor Bailey Jr. earned late minutes over Justin Powell, the poor end to both halves and more.