BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Josiah-Jordan James scored a season-high 22 points to lead No. 9 Tennessee to a 77-56 victory over LSU on Saturday.
James, who missed eight games in November and December due to injury, made his second straight start for the Volunteers (16-3, 6-1 Southeastern Conference). James had 13 points in 34 minutes against Mississippi State on Tuesday.
Playing 31 minutes Saturday, James was 9-of-16 from the field. He matched his career-high with four 3-pointers. James was one point shy of equaling his career-best which came at Georgia last season. James was consistent throughout the game with 10 first-half points and 12 second-half points.
Tennessee point guard Zakai Zeigler had 12 points and 10 assists, which tied his career high. Julian Phillips and Tyreke Key each had 10 points.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes was satisfied with the two recent victories over Mississippi State and LSU as he tries to get his team healthy.
“I am really proud of these guys,” Barnes said. “We have not been able to do a lot of what we like to do in practice. We have used these games to get guys like Josiah to be where they need to be with their cardio. Josiah did a good job. He came out early and helped Julian and Santiago (Vescovi).”
KJ Williams led LSU (12-7, 1-6), which has lost six straight, with 16 points. Trae Hannibal added 10 points. The Tigers committed 19 turnovers which resulted in 33 Volunteers points.
“There’s a reason Tennessee is a top-five team,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said. “From our standpoint, when you have an opportunity in a game like this, you have to find to some way to eliminate mistakes. You don’t see numbers like that where you turn it over and it leads to so many points.”
Tennessee, which had lost six of its last eight games against LSU, had a pair of runs in the first half which resulted in a 39-22 halftime lead. Both of those stretches were sparked by the Volunteers’ defense.
“I told these guys that we are a good basketball team right now,” Barnes said. “But we need to get a lot better. We all have to get better. Coaches have to get better. Players have to get better. There is a lot of basketball left and we cannot stay where we are now.”
NEW LINEUP LOOKS GOOD
For the first time, coach Barnes had his three most experienced players in the lineup – Vescovi, James and Ziegler. This group combined for 40 points and 14 assists. Vescovi, a senior, was back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s Mississippi State game with a shoulder injury. Vescovi, who is averaging 13 points a game, scored six points on two 3-pointers. James, also a senior, scored a season-high 22 points. He had missed most of the pre-conference schedule with an injury. Zeigler, who has come off the bench for most of his career, made his second straight start. Zeigler, a sophomore, had 12 points and 10 assists. In the last two games, Zeigler has scored 36 points and handed out 14 assists.
Tennessee: The Volunteers moved one-half game ahead of Texas A&M, which lost at Kentucky on Saturday, in the SEC standings. Tennessee ended a four-game losing streak in Baton Rouge with the lopsided victory.
LSU: The Tigers have lost six straight SEC games after beating Arkansas in the league-opener. The last five defeats have all been by double digits. LSU had a 14-game SEC losing streak in 2017. But it has been 56 seasons since the Tigers lost five consecutive conference games by double digits.
Tennessee returns home to play Georgia on Wednesday.
LSU plays at Arkansas on Tuesday.
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