No. 10 Texas struggles early, falls to No. 4 Tennessee 82-71

Jan 28, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Marcus Carr (5) moves the ball against Tennessee Volunteers forward Olivier Nkamhoua (13) during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Texas struggles early, falls to No. 4 Tennessee 82-71

No. 10 Texas struggled much of the way, trailing by as many as 22 early in the second half in an 82-71 loss to No. 4 Tennessee on Saturday in a Big 12/SEC Challenge game in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Sir’Jabari Rice led Texas (17-4) with 19 points, with Marcus Carr and Brock Cunningham adding 11 each for the Longhorns, who had a two-game win streak snapped. Their starters scored just seven points in the first half, with Carr and Timmy Allen — their two leading scorers on the season– held scoreless.

Olivier Nkamhoua poured in a career-high 27 points and Zakai Zeigler added 22 points and 10 assists for the Volunteers (18-3), who built a 12-point lead at halftime that they expanded to 22 with torrid shooting over the first six minutes of the second half.

Texas drew to within 69-58 after a jumper by Carr with 6:06 remaining before a dunk by Nkamhoua at the 4:08 mark and a pair of free throws by Josiah-Jordan James 41 seconds later pushed Tennessee’s lead back to 15 points — too much for the Longhorns to overcome.

James hit for 14 points while Santiago Vescovi tallied 12 for Tennessee, which has won four straight games.

The game was knotted at 17 with 10:46 to play in the half. The Volunteers then reeled off an 11-2 run culminated by Nkamhoua’s layup with 4:11 remaining that gave Tennessee a 28-19 advantage. That lead expanded to as many as 14 points after a pair of free throws by Zeigler with 1:48 left before the Volunteers settled for a 40-28 advantage at the break.

It was the fourth straight game that Tennessee has limited its opponent to 28 points or less in the first half.

Nkamhoua’s 14 points before halftime led all scorers while Rice’s 11 paced Texas. The Longhorns’ bench players outscored Tennessee’s reserves 21-2 over the first 20 minutes of play to help Texas stay close.

Any thought of a Longhorns comeback was all but squashed when Tennessee nine of its first 10 shots over the initial six minutes while boosting its lead to 61-39.

–Field Level Media contributed to this story.

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