Vols Avenge Loss At Texas A&M To Give Barnes 800th Win

  • Sunday, February 25, 2024

The UT men's basketball team dominated the final 25 minutes Saturday night at Food City Center to defeat Texas A&M, 86-51, and give head coach Rick Barnes the 800th victory of his illustrious career.

Fifth-ranked Tennessee (21-6, 11-3 SEC) got a game-best 24 points, including 15 in the second half, from fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht in front of a sold-out, over-capacity crowd of 22,322.

"It's really the motto with our program: It's Not About Me. God has truly blessed me with players, coaches and administrations, and certainly a family, that has been with me every step of the way," Barnes said after becoming the 15th Division I coach with 800 wins. "I've been doing it a long time, obviously, but I'm just thankful and blessed. And I do know this: every time that I thought I could do it on my own, it didn't work. I just thank God for looking out for me through the years because there are times that I really messed it up and I appreciate Him not quitting on me and keeping me where I needed to be.

"I'm really thankful to the players," Barnes continued. "I know what grind they put into it every day, [as do] our coaches and people in our program. I've just been blessed with having a chance to be around so many wonderful people."

The Volunteers scored the first six points of the night and grabbed an 11-3 edge after just 4:09 of action. Texas A&M (15-12, 6-8 SEC) countered with a 12-2 burst in 3:02 to take its only lead, 15-13, with 12:23 on the timer.

Tennessee scored seven straight points in 2:06 to go back up by four, but the Aggies responded with a 9-4 run to even the tally at 24 with 4:36 left in the frame. The home team scored 13 of the final 16 points of the frame, ending it with a buzzer-beating corner 3-pointer by fifth-year guard Santiago Vescovi, to take a then-game-best 10-point margin, 37-27, into the locker room.

Barnes' team shot 46.4 percent (13-of-28) from the field in the opening half, while holding Texas A&M to a 27.8 percent (10-of-36) clip at the other end.

The Volunteers scored 12 of the opening 17 points of the second frame—making it a 25-8 extended burst—to grab a commanding 17-point advantage, 49-32, with 16:17 remaining. The Aggies never cut their deficit below 13 from that point on.

Tennessee scored nine straight points in 2:37 to spark an impressive 34-12 run over the final 12:35, pushing the margin all the way to 35, with freshman guard Cameron Carr caping the scoring on a fast-break dunk seconds before the final horn.

To eclipse 20 points for the eighth time in the last 13 games, Knecht shot 7-of-14 from the field, 4-of-9 beyond the arc and 6-of-7 at the stripe. He added seven rebounds in the triumph.

Junior forward Jonas Aidoo logged his eighth double-double of the season with 18 points and a game-best 14 rebounds, becoming the first Volunteer with that line since March 21, 2014. He finished 9-of-14 from the floor and led all players with three blocks. Sophomore forward Tobe Awaka notched 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go along with six rebounds.

Junior guard Zakai Zeigler turned in a dazzling line of nine points, a career-high nine rebounds, a career-high 14 assists and zero turnovers. No other Division I player in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24) has recorded such a line. The Long Island, N.Y., native also became just the sixth Power Six player—two are Volunteers—with 14-plus assists and no giveaways during that time, as well as tied for the sixth-most assists in a single game in Tennessee history.

Graduate student guard Tyrece Radford and junior guard Wade Taylor IV co-led Texas A&M with 11 points apiece, totaling a lower combined total than each had in the teams' Feb. 14 meeting in College Station, Texas, when they had 27 and 25, respectively. Tennessee held Radford to 4-of-16 shooting, including a 2-of-9 clip from deep, and limited Taylor to a 3-of-12 ledger, including a 3-of-10 mark beyond the arc. Junior guard Jace Carter added 10 points for the Aggies, all before halftime.

Tennessee, which led for over 37 minutes and trailed for just 52 seconds, concluded the night with a decisive 46-22 edge in paint points and a 21-6 edge in fast-break points. It shot 52.4 percent (33-of-63) and held the Aggies to a 27.3 percent (18-of-66) figure.

In addition, the Volunteers amassed a thorough 50-33 advantage on the glass against one of the top rebounding teams in the nation. It marked the first time they grabbed 50 boards in a game since Dec. 7, 2022, and first time in SEC play since Feb. 26, 2022, as well as just the third time in the last nine seasons (2015-24) the Aggies were minus-17 on the glass.

Tennessee plays its second straight home game Wednesday at 7 p.m. when it takes on No. 14 Auburn in a top-15 showdown, live on ESPN2 from Food City Center.

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

• Barnes now owns 800 victories in his career, five behind Rick Byrd for No. 14 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).
• Barnes is the 15th head coach in Division I history (min. 10 years at DI level) with 800 victories, including the second among active coaches, alongside Kentucky's John Calipari.
• Additionally, Barnes is the 26th NCAA coach, regardless of level, with 800 wins, including third among active coaches, joining Calipari and Dave Holmquist of Biola, a Division II school in La Miranda, Calif.
• Barnes is the fifth individual with SEC coaching experience to log 800 victories, joining Calipari, Cliff Ellis, Adolph Rupp and Eddie Sutton.
• The only other individuals to reach 800 wins while serving as an active SEC head coach are Calipari and Rupp, both of whom did so with Kentucky.
• Barnes now owns a 32-11 record against Texas A&M, one shy of his most wins versus any team, as he is 33-5 versus Texas Tech.
• Tennessee has been ranked in eight of its last nine meetings with the Aggies and is 6-2 in those contests, including 6-1 with Texas A&M unranked.
• The Volunteers are now 73-22 (.768) as an AP top-10 team and 32-9 (.780) as an AP top-five team in Barnes' nine-year tenure, all in the past seven seasons.
• As the sixth of a venue record eight confirmed sellouts this season, the crowd of 22,322—good for 644 over capacity—marked the largest of the season and the first time over 22,000 were in the stands since Feb. 9, 2019, when 22,261 were in attendance for a matchup with Florida.
• The announced crowd of 22,322 marked the largest attendance at Food City Center in at least the past decade (2014-24) and was just four shy of the top mark in the venue at its current capacity, as the record is 22,326 against Gonzaga on Jan. 7, 2009,
• Tennessee last pulled down 50-plus rebounds on Dec. 7, 2022, when it had 56 versus Eastern Kentucky and last hit that mark in league play on Feb. 26, 2022, when it grabbed 54 against Auburn.
• The only other times Texas A&M allowed 50-plus rebounds in a game over the last nine seasons (2015-24) were to Alabama (50) on March 12, 2023, in the SEC Tournament final in Nashville, Tenn., at Auburn (52) on Feb. 12, 2022, and versus Auburn (50) on Jan. 16, 2019.
• Only twice prior in the last nine seasons (2015-24) has Texas A&M been outrebounded by 17: at home against Gonzaga (46-31) on Nov. 15, 2019, and at home versus Auburn (50-33) on Jan. 16, 2019.
• After starting 3-of-7 from 3-point range, the Aggies missed each of their next eight attempts from long range and went 4-of-27 the rest of the night to finish 7-of-34 (20.6 percent).
• Radford and Taylor combined for 22 points on a 7-of-28 field-goal clip, including a 5-of-19 mark on 3-pointers, after totaling 52 on 17-of-35 shooting, including a 7-of-18 ledger from deep, in the teams' first matchup Feb. 14 at Texas A&M.
• Taylor made three of his first four shots, all on 3-pointers, in the opening five minutes and then Tennessee held him to an 0-of-8 mark—with just two points, both at the line—the rest of the game, including a 0-of-6 clip from deep.
• Awaka has now recorded the two highest-scoring games of his career in succession, as his 12-point performance following his career-best 18 point mark Tuesday at Missouri.
• Vescovi notched the 199th steal of his career, moving him past C.J. Watson (2002-06) for sole possession of second place on the program's all-time leaderboard.
• Aidoo now has nine double-doubles as a Volunteer, including eight this season, six of which have come in the team's 14 SEC contests.
• The last Volunteer with at least 18 points and 14 rebounds in a game was Jarnell Stokes, who did so on March 21, 2014, against UMass in an NCAA Tournament Round of 64 matchup in Raleigh, N.C.
• Over the last 15 seasons (2009-24), the only other Tennessee players with at least 18 points and 14 rebounds in a game are Stokes (four times in 2013-14 and once in 2012-13) and Jeronne Maymon (2011-12), with one of Stokes' showings in overtime and Maymon's also in overtime.
• The lone time in the last 16 seasons (2008-24) a Volunteer logged at least 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks was on Feb. 23, 2013, when Stokes did so in an overtime contest at Texas A&M.
• The only other SEC player this season to record a game with at least 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks is Auburn's Johni Broome, who did so on Jan. 24 at Alabama.
• Zeigler passed Michael Brooks (1980-83; 1984-85) and Jordan Bone (2016-19) to move into eighth place on the program's all-time assist leaderboard, now with 410, and became the ninth Volunteer ever to reach 400.
• The 14 assists for Zeigler marked just the ninth time in program history a player reached that figure and tied him for the sixth-highest single-game total by a Volunteer.
• Zeigler is the first SEC player with 14 assists in a contest since Kentucky's TyTy Washington logged 17 on Jan. 8, 2022, against Georgia, and he is the first Volunteer to hit that mark since Lamonté Turner on Nov. 12, 2019, versus Murray State.
• The only SEC players in the last 14 seasons (2010-24) with 14 assists and no turnovers in a game are Volunteers, as Zeigler joins Turner in achieving the feat.
• The lone other Division I player with 14 assists and no turnovers in a game this season is Marquette's Tyler Kolek, who notched 15 and zero on Jan. 7, 2023, against Georgetown.
• Besides Zeigler, Turner and Kolek, the only other three Power Six players with 14-plus assists and no turnovers in game over the last 19 seasons (2005-24) are Michigan's Mike Smith (March 12, 2021, against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals in Indianapolis), Iowa's Jordan Bohannon (Jan. 10, 2021, versus Minnesota) and Northwestern Bryant McIntosh (Jan. 10, 2018, against Minnesota).
• Over the last 14 seasons (2010-24), just 11 SEC players—12 occurrences, as Kentucky's John Wall did it twice—logged a game with 14-plus assists.
• Just four other SEC player in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24) have registered 14-plus assists in a league game: Kentucky's TyTy Washington (Jan. 8, 2022, against Georgia), Auburn's Sharife Cooper (Feb. 6, 2021, in an overtime affair at Mississippi State), Auburn's Jared Harper (Feb. 3, 2018, against Vanderbilt) and Kentucky's Tyler Ulis (March 5, 2016, against LSU).
• Zeigler now has at least 13 assists in a game twice this season, while no other player in the SEC has reached 12 even once.
• The nine rebounds for Zeigler set a new career best, eclipsing the prior top tally of six he recorded on six occasions.
• The only three other Power Six players in at least the last 19  seasons (2005-24) to post a line of nine points, nine rebounds and 14 assists in a game are Shamorie Ponds of St. John's (Dec. 16, 2018, against Wagner), Dennis Smith Jr., of NC State (Feb. 1, 2017, in an overtime affair at Syracuse) and Kris Dunn of Providence (Feb. 1, 2017, against Hartford), with Zeigler the first to do so in a regulation conference
• Zeigler is the fourth Division I player, including the only one in a Power Six league, in at least the last  18 seasons (2006-24) to notch nine points, nine rebounds, 14 assists and four steals in a contest, joining BYU's Kyle Collinsworth (Jan. 1, 2016, at Loyola Marymount), Niagara's Anthony Nelson (Feb. 6, 2011, at Marist) and UMass' Chris Lowe (March 5, 2008, against La Salle).
• Just two Division I players in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24) have recorded nine points, nine rebounds and 14 assists in a game without committing a turnover: Youngstown State's Bryce McBride on Dec. 8, 2022, against non-DI Westminster (PA) and Gonzaga's Joel Ayayi on Jan. 9, 2021, at Portland.
• Zeigler is the  Division I player in at least  the last 19 seasons (2005-24) has registered nine points, nine rebounds, 14 assists and four steals without committing a turnover.
• Knecht is the sixth SEC player in the last 12 years (2012-24) to record 14-plus points in at least 13 straight league games, joining Kentucky's Antonio Reeves (2023-24), LSU's Cameron Thomas (2020-21), Mississippi State's Quinndary Weatherspoon (2018-19), South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell (2016-17) and Alabama's Retin Obasohan (2015-16).
• Knecht has now scored 20-plus points 32 times in his three Division I seasons, including 13 times in his lone year as a Volunteer and in 10 of the last 13 contests.

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