KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Another balanced offensive effort and timely stops on the defensive end pushed the eighth-ranked Tennessee basketball team past USC Upstate, 80-60, on Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols (6-0)—off to their best start since the 2010-11 squad opened the year 7-0—were powered by a balanced offensive effort during which every player who saw action scored, withstanding Upstate’s (0-8) efficient 9-of-18 shooting performance from 3-point range.
Junior Victor Bailey Jr. led Tennessee in scoring for the second consecutive game, pouring in 18 points, while knocking down a career-high-tying eight field goals.
On the boards, sophomore Josiah-Jordan James led the way with a game-high eight rebounds. James scored 11 points while shooting an efficient 3-of-5 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. He also added five assists and nabbed a career-high-tying three steals.
Classmate Santiago Vescovi scored nine points and dished off a career-high-tying eight assists.
John Fulkerson was the third Vol to reach double-figures, scoring 10 points and knocking down all six of his attempts from the foul line.
Sophomore Olivier Nkamhoua was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field Wednesday, while recording nine points, an assist, one steal and a block in 13 minutes of action off the bench.
The contest’s opening 12 minutes were defined by both squads holding firm on the defensive end. But the Vols shot a stellar .714 from the field while assisting on 9-of-10 field goals to take a 23-15 lead at the under-eight media break of the first half.
The programs exchanged punches over the final eight minutes of the period, with UT holding on to its advantage, edging the Spartans, 33-26, at the halftime horn.
The start of the second half saw much of the same action, with the sides trading blows and the Vols maintaining a 10-point lead at the under-12 media timeout.
Through the game’s final stages, Tennessee clamped down on defense and took advantage of a number of transition buckets, stretching its lead to as many as 22 before walking away with the 20-point victory.
You’ve Been Blocked: The Vols finished the night with seven blocks, marking the fourth consecutive game UT has tallied at least five team blocks. The Orange & White have rejected 30 shots this season, an average of five per game.
Up Next: Tennessee will take a week-long break before opening SEC play on the road against Missouri on Dec. 30. Tipoff from Columbia is set for 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network.