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Shorthanded Vols drop SEC opener to No. 19 Alabama

The 14th-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team opened conference play in Tuscaloosa Wednesday.
Tennessee's Santiago Vescovi (25) defends against Alabama's Herbert Jones (1) in the second...
Tennessee's Santiago Vescovi (25) defends against Alabama's Herbert Jones (1) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)(Mark Humphrey | AP)
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 1:39 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Despite being down two starters, 14th-ranked Tennessee battled before falling on the road to No. 19 Alabama, 73-68, late Wednesday.

Junior forward Olivier Nkamhoua led the Vols in scoring and rebounding with 15 points and nine boards. Junior guard Santiago Vescovi also had a productive night, contributing 13 points and six rebounds.

Making his first career start, freshman guard Zakai Zeigler scored 11 points and had four assists.

Senior Noah Gurley led Alabama with 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

Tennessee was playing the game without two of its season-long starters—freshman guard Kennedy Chandler and super senior forward John Fulkerson.

After entering the halftime break tied at 33 with Alabama, Tennessee did not trail for the first 18:58 of the second half, but never led by more than six points.

Facing its largest deficit of the second half at 63-57 with just over six minutes remaining, Alabama strung together a 10-2 run—capped off by a Jaden Shackelford layup that gave the Tide a 67-65 lead with 1:02 remaining.

Tennessee quickly responded with a 3-pointer from Nkamhoua with 50 seconds remaining to regain the lead at 68-67, but Alabama fired back once more with a deep three from Keon Ellis to pull in front, 70-68.

After the Vols missed a 3-point attempt on the other end and Alabama’s JD Davison went 1-for-2 at the line, Zeigler missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer.

Despite Tennessee leading by as many as 10 in the first half, the two teams went into the halftime break tied at 33 apiece.

The Vols and Tide played a tightly-contested first 12 minutes before Tennessee used a quick 10-3 spurt to take a 33-23 lead at the 3:23 mark.

After hitting just two of its first 12 field goal attempts, Tennessee rebounded by making 11 of its next 16 shots, capped off by a Brandon Huntley-Hatfield layup that extended the Vols’ lead to 10.

Alabama however quickly responded with a 10-0 run to end the first half that knotted up the score at the break.

UP NEXT: Tennessee returns home for its SEC home opener against Ole Miss on Wednesday, Jan. 5. The game is set for a 7 p.m. ET tipoff and will air on SEC Network.

VOLS CONTINUING TO CREATE TAKEAWAYS: With 10 steals on Saturday, Tennessee recorded its seventh game of 10 or more steals this season.

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