Playing its first home game in three weeks, the University of Tennessee men's basketball defeated George Mason, 87-66, Tuesday night at Food City Center.
Junior forward Jonas Aidoo paced No. 17/13 Tennessee (5-3) with a career- and game-best 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, adding a game-leading eight rebounds and a career-high-tying four assists, as the Volunteers trailed for just 51 seconds.
Following a 1-of-9 start from long range, Tennessee connected on 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions—two by junior guard Zakai Zeigler sandwiched around one by Aidoo—to go ahead by seven, 26-19, with 5:31 left in the opening half.
After that, the Volunteers extended their edge to nine on four occasions, but did not push it to double figures until the final minute of the frame. They closed the session on a 6-0 run in the final 1:12, including a buzzer-beating layup by junior guard Jordan Gainey, to take a 13-point lead, 39-26, at the break.
Tennessee shot 51.6 percent (16-of-31) from the field in the initial 20 minutes while holding George Mason (7-2) to a 36.0 percent (9-of-25) clip at the other end. It also had an 8-0 advantage in first-half fast-break points and a 13-2 margin in assists while committing just three turnovers and forcing seven.
The Volunteers scored seven points in the first 78 seconds of the second half to make it 13 in a row in exactly 2:30 over both halves, with the surge putting them up by 20. Several minutes later, they pushed the lead to 25 points, 61-36, with 12:52 on a three-point play by sophomore forward Tobe Awaka in his first game back from a right ankle injury.
Tennessee extended its lead as high as 26, as its second-largest mark in any outing this season, on the way to the 21-point win, tied for its second-largest of 2023-24.
Aidoo, who connected on both his 3-point attempts, had three teammates join him in double digits. Fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James totaled 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go along with a career-high-tying six assists. Awaka finished with 11 points and a season-best seven rebounds, while fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht notched 10 points.
Senior guard Darius Maddox led the Patriots with 15 points, shooting 5-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-6 beyond the arc. Senior guard/forward Woody Newton recorded 13 points on a 4-of-5 field-goal clip and freshman guard Baraka Okojie logged 11 points.
Additionally, Tennessee limited George Mason's leading scorer Keyshawn Hall, a sophomore guard/forward who came in averaging 15.1 points per game, to just eight on 3-of-13 shooting.
The Volunteers concluded the night with a plus-16 margin in both rebounding, 43-27, and paint points, 40-24. They also were plus-12 in fast-break points, 15-3, and plus-eight in second-chance points, 10-2. The victors posted 27 assists and just eight turnovers, while George Mason, which shot 11-of-25 (44.0 percent) on 3-pointers, had 11 assists and 14 giveaways.
Up next for Tennessee is its fourth top-20 showdown in a five-game stretch, as it faces No. 20/18 Illinois at Food City, with tip-off set for Saturday at noon, live on CBS.
To keep up with the University of Tennessee men's basketball team on social media, follow @Vol_Hoops on Instagram and X/Twitter, as well as /tennesseebasketball on Facebook.
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS POSTGAME NOTES
• Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes now owns 784 victories in his career, putting him two behind Lefty Driesell for No. 15 on the all-time wins list (min. five years at a Division I school).
• Barnes has now defeated 198 different DI programs in his 37 years as a head coach, with each of the last two (George Mason and Texas) being places he worked as a head coach.
• Barnes is now 4-1 as a head coach against schools he previously served as the head coach at, as he is now 1-0 versus George Mason and 1-1 versus Texas at Tennessee after previously going 2-0 against Providence while at Texas.
• Tuesday marked the first victory—in just the second all-time series meeting—over George Mason in Tennessee history.
• The Volunteers now own a 24-game non-conference home winning streak, dating back to the 2020-21 season opener versus Colorado on Dec. 8, 2020.
• Along with Awaka coming back from injury after missing Tennessee's last contest, redshirt freshman guard Freddie Dilione V returned to action after missing the last four-plus games due to a partially torn left plantar fascia.
• The Volunteers have now recorded 27-plus assists in a game 12 times in Barnes' nine-year tenure, doing so for the first time since Feb. 25, 2023, when they had 29 versus South Carolina.
• Tuesday marked the third time this season—along with Nov. 6 against Tennessee Tech and No. 10 at Wisconsin—the Volunteers had all 13 of their scholarship players healthy and available from start to finish in a game.
• After taking at least 14 fewer free throws than its opponent in each of the last three games, Tennessee (22) had twice as many attempts as George Mason (11).
• Knecht made his first two field-goal attempts of the night, giving him a stretch of 15-of-19 shooting dating back to his 13-of-17 performance Nov. 29 at No. 17/16 North Carolina.
• Tuesday was the first time all season Knecht, who played just 25 minutes, did not have at least one half in a game with a double-digit points, as he previously did so nine times in the first eight contests.
• Aidoo previously had just one game in his career with multiple made 3-pointers, as he went 2-of-3 on Jan. 7, 2023, at South Carolina, with his 15 points in that contest also serving as his prior career best in that category.
• Aidoo's seven made field goals eclipsed his prior high of six, which he posted on three occasions, the first of which was the aforementioned game at South Carolina.
• The four assists for Aidoo also tied his career high—set Jan. 3, 2023, versus Mississippi State—and marked his third time as a collegian he had three-plus in a contest, including the second in eight outings in 2023-24.
• Prior to Aidoo, the last time a Volunteer had at least 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one block in a game was March 1, 2022, when James did so at Georgia.
• James previously registered six assists on three occasions, all of which came during the 2019-20 season and the most recent of which was Feb. 29, 2020, against Florida.
• Awaka's prior high total in the scoring column was 10, which he posted twice, on both Feb. 21, 2023, at Texas A&M and Jan. 25, 2023, against Georgia.