BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Despite struggles on the offensive end, No. 7 Tennessee’s stifling effort on the defensive end was enough to get by No. 13 Maryland Sunday at the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational in Barclays Center, 56-53.
Two New York natives played massive roles in the win for the Vols. Sophomore Zakai Zeigler (Long Island) had a team-high 12 points and was named the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational Game MVP, while true freshman Tobe Awaka (Hyde Park) scored seven points and had eight rebounds in 17 minutes—his first extended action of the season.
Tyreke Key was the Vols’ second-leading scorer with nine points and hit a free throw to extend Tennessee’s lead to three points in the closing seconds.
Defensively, Tennessee (9-1) held Maryland to 33 percent shooting for the game, including 13 percent in the first half. The Terrapins also shot just eight percent from 3-point range for the game (2-for-24).
After Tennessee led by 17 points at halftime and by as many as 21 points in the first half, Maryland cut the Vols’ lead all the way down to two points at 48-46 with 5:11 remaining and again at 51-49 with 3:31 on the clock.
Both times, the Vols answered with huge 3-pointers—first from Jahmai Mashack and the later from Zeigler—to give Tennessee breathing room.
Maryland (8-2) made one final push in the game’s final minute, again cutting the Vols’ lead to two with 24.6 seconds remaining. The Terrapins fouled Zeigler on the other end, but Zeigler missed the front end of the 1-and-1, giving Maryland the ball trailing by two points with just under 20 seconds to go.
On the other end, the Vols forced a missed jumper by Maryland’s Jahmir Young, and Olivier Nkamhoua snatched up a clutch rebound. With 7.7 seconds remaining, Key converted on one of two free throws on the other end, and Maryland’s final 3-point attempt fell short.
Despite shooting just 28 percent from the field in the first half, Tennessee took a 34-17 lead into the halftime break. Of Maryland’s 17 first-half points, nine came at the free-throw line.
The Vols were stifling on the defensive end to open the game—forcing Maryland to miss 18 of its first 20 field-goal attempts. The Terrapins made just three field goals during the first half as a whole, shooting just 13 percent (3-for-24).
Tennessee steadily built its lead over the course of the first half, outscoring Maryland 17-5 in the opening 10 minutes of play.
UP NEXT: Tennessee is back on the road for one final time in non-conference play, heading west to take on Arizona in Tucson on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 10:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. MT on ESPN2.
VOLS RACK UP ANOTHER RANKED WIN: With Sunday’s win over No. 13 Maryland, Tennessee now has two wins over ranked opponents this season—having also defeated No. 3 Kansas on Nov. 25. It marks the first time since 2010 that the Vols have defeated two ranked opponents before Christmas.
DEFENSE TRAVELS: Tennessee entered Sunday having held three straight opponents to under 30 percent shooting from the field and nearly accomplished the feat again against Maryland—holding the Terrapins to 32.7 percent shooting (17-for-52).
The Vols have now held their opponents under 33 percent shooting eight times this season.
LOCKDOWN DEFENSE: Tennessee has now held its opponent under the 1.000 points-per-possession mark in nine of 10 games this season, going undefeated when doing so. The Vols held Maryland to .828 ppp on Sunday.