BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Tennessee drew to within one point in the final minute of play, but was unable to overcome a second-half deficit Tuesday at No. 25 Texas A&M, 68-63.
Tennessee (20-8, 9-6 SEC) and Texas A&M (21-7, 13-2) shot nearly identical field goal percentages and 3-point percentages, but the Aggies were 28-of-34 at the free-throw line compared to the Vols’ 10-for-14.
Santiago Vescovi had an all-around standout performance for the shorthanded Vols, coming up just short of a triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, as well as grabbing three steals. Vescovi played a team-high 36 minutes while battling illness.
Zakai Zeigler tied for the team lead with 14 points of his own, along with four assists. Olivier Nkamhoua had 13 points, while Tobe Awaka had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Of Texas A&M’s 68 points, 46 came from Wade Taylor IV and Julius Marble, who had 25 and 21 points, respectvely. Taylor IV was 16-for-17 at the free-throw line.
After the two teams went into halftime tied and a back-and-forth opening to the second half led to a 41-40 Tennessee lead four and a half minutes into the period, Texas A&M took control of the game with a 10-0 run that gave the Aggies their largest lead of the night at nine points with 12:00 remaining, 50-41.
Tennessee however fought back with a 16-7 run over the next five minutes of game time to pull within one point on a Zeigler fastbreak layup with 7:02 to play.
The Vols threatened to take the lead on a few occasions in the game’s final minutes, cutting the Aggies’ lead to one point four separate times. The final time came on a Zeigler driving layup with 25.0 seconds remaining to make it 64-63.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, Vescovi forced a steal, but Texas A&M took the ball right back. After gathering the steal, Taylor IV then forced a foul and drained two free throws on the other end. Trailing by three, Tennessee got one final 3-point attempt to tie the game, but Zeigler’s shot was off the mark.
In the early going of the first half, Tennessee led by as many as nine points, but the two teams entered the halftime break tied at 31 apiece.
By the 16:38 mark of the first half, Tennessee jumped out to a 9-0 lead—forcing Texas A&M to miss its first five field goal attempts. Marble got the Aggies on the board with a layup at the 16:22 mark, but Texas A&M scored just three points in the first six minutes of the game.
After facing the early deficit, Texas A&M steadily climbed back into the game—eventually capping off the first half on an 11-4 run to send the game to halftime with a tied score. The Aggies, who entered Tuesday ranking second in Division I in free throw attempts, were 10-for-12 at the charity stripe in the first half.
UP NEXT: Tennessee returns to Thompson-Boling Arena for one final Saturday home game this season—taking on South Carolina at 6 p.m. ET Saturday. The game will be televised on SEC Network.