Texas welcomed back the all-time winning coach in their history, Rick Barnes, in Saturday night’s Big 12/SEC challenge match-up against the Tennessee Volunteers. The UT faithful were in full force as there wasn’t a seat vacant. Texas came into the game looking to get on a three-game winning streak by upsetting Barnes and his Volunteers in his homecoming. Tennessee came in riding a four-game win streak and looking to honor their coach with a win in his return to where he spent 20 years. Texas and Coach Beard honored Coach Barnes and his players of Texas past before the game. However, Texas would not let his return home have a storybook ending. They would withstand a late rally by the Volunteers and outlast them. A Tennessee last-minute three-point attempt hit the rim and bounced off the backboard to give the Longhorns 52-51 win over the No. 18-ranked Volunteers.
The Longhorns would get off to a good shooting night with their efficient offense led by senior Courtney Ramey, and Andrew Jones who would finish the half with seven points each. Texas would end the first half shooting 52.5 percent on 10-for-19 shooting from the field and 40 percent on 4-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc with 12 points from their bench. On the other hand, the Volunteers would struggle to put the ball through the rim. Tennessee would shoot 39 percent from the field and only 19 percent from beyond the arc. But the Volunteers would manage to stay in the game by turning over the Longhorns, making them give it up ten times in the first half, led by Santiago Vescovi’s three steals. Freshman Kennedy Chandler and Junior Olivier Nkamhoua would lead Tennessee in first-half scoring with six points each as Texas took a 27-25 lead at the half.
The second half started with the Longhorns going on a 12-0 run behind senior Timmy Allen’s fast start. Allen scored five of his nine points off of strong post play against the enormous front line of the Volunteers. Texas would take a 37-25 lead with 15:53 remaining and continue extending to 40-27 going into the second media timeout. In the second half, it would be the Ramey show offensively for Texas as he would put on the Longhorns on his back and shoot them past their turnover woes, hitting the spot up and pullup jumpers all-over finishing with a game-high 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.
Texas would continue to show Tennessee why they are ranked 12th defensively by kenpom.com and hold them to shooting 35 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from beyond the arc for the game. The Volunteers would make a charge at the Longhorns by continuing to turn them over 18 times on the night. The Volunteers would score 22 points off the gifts from the Longhorns. Then the 5-9 Zakai Zeigler would be the little engine that could as he willed the Volunteers to a chance to win the game before Allen was fouled with 6.2 remaining. Allen would hit the back end of two free throws to give the Longhorns the win after Tennessee missed a 3 point shot to win at the buzzer. Zeigler would finish the game with a team-high 12 points on 4-for-9-shooting from the field and 2-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc. He showed great quickness getting to the rim and knocking down catch and shoot threes.
Junior Santiago Vescovi, who had been averaging 14.6 ppg, would be slowed down offensively as he would turn down shots and struggle to get past Longhorn defenders and finished the game with four points on 1-for-8 shooting from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. In addition, Kennedy Chandler showed flashes of the dynamic playmaking ability everyone is used to in the first half but would fade in the second half finishing the game with eight points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc. He had no assists in the game with three turnovers.