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Three Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Survives Scare At Georgia

Take A Look At Kennesaw State (+1600) In The Atlantic Sun Conference

Athens, GA — Tennessee struggled for much of the evening at Stegeman Coliseum, but a big game from Josiah-Jordan James allowed the Vols to survive the road scare, 75-68.

Three quick takeaways.

Sluggish First Half From Tennessee

Tennessee has done a fantastic job of avoiding let down games this season and with the win in Athens the Vols win enter postseason play without a bad loss.

But going off the win over No. 3 Auburn and on the road facing the conference’s worst team, Tennessee lacked the early energy and intensity they’ve had all season. Seven first half turnovers and an uncharacteristic number of defensive breakdowns had the game tied, 35-35, at halftime.

The Vols didn’t start the game incredibly slow but their patented scoring drought came in the first half allowing Georgia to go on an 8-0 run and take a six-point lead into the under eight media timeout.

Josiah-Jordan James sparked the Vols back into the lead out of the timeout, but even then Tennessee couldn’t find any separation in the first half.

Georgia shot a strong four-of-nine from three-point range in the first half, but besides that the Bulldogs didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to give Tennessee problems. The Bulldogs’ turnover and rebounding issues continued in the first half, Tennessee just failed to capitalize to the fullest extent.

For just the second time in conference play, Tennessee came out and played a very poor half against a team it was far better than.

Josiah-Jordan James Shows Up In A Big Way 

Despite the slow start, there was one Tennessee player who showed up dialed in from the jump — Josiah-Jordan James.

Following the Vols’ season ending loss to Oregon State last March, James talked about how he had to be a better leader going forward. Following Tennessee’s loss at Kentucky in January, Rick Barnes called out the leadership of his team.

It’s a fitting display of Tennessee’s growth that one of its main leaders stepped up in a big way to steady the ship when things got rocky.

James’ nine first half points and three assists kept Tennessee even with Georgia as the Vols’ offense struggled for much of the half.

In the second half, James propelled Tennessee on an 11-0 run, the game’s biggest, with three triples in a matter of a 1:29.

The Charleston, South Carolina native’s 23 points marked a new career high and was a game-high. James was Tennessee’s best player in Athens and they don’t win without him.

Vols’ Backcourt Struggles

Tennessee’s turnaround the second half of the season has been driven by its young backcourt that keeps improving as the season moves forward.

That backcourt was a big reason for Tennessee’s struggles in Athens and its inability to put the Bulldogs away.

Kennedy Chandler did play well, scoring 16 points, but the point guard turned it over four times while dishing out only two assists. The five-star freshman also missed the front end of the bonus that effectively would have put Georgia away in the final minutes.

Santiago Vescovi hit his first three triples of the game, but didn’t score again until making free throws in the game’s final two minutes.

Vescovi struggled with Georgia’s guards athleticism and the junior didn’t make another shot from the field after the fast start, ending the game three-of-10 from the field with two turnovers.

Zakai Zeigler played his worst game in weeks, scoring just two points on one-of-seven shooting from the field. For one of the first time’s this season, defense’s length gave the small guard issues.

Zeigler turned the ball over a pair of times and the Vols were -7 with the point guard on the court.

In fact, it was Tennessee power forward John Fulkerson that provided back-to-back huge baskets that gave the Vols’ breathing room in the game’s final minutes.

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