Barclays Center— Zakai Zeigler poured in 12 points, including a late trey in the second half as No. 7 Tennessee beat No. 13 Maryland 56-53 Sunday in a Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational contest.
The Vols (9-1) led by as many as 18 points in the first half before Maryland pulled within two points in the final minutes. The Volunteers shot 28.8% overall (19 of 66) but hit four of 11 three pointers in the second half.
Tennessee shooting guard Santiago Vescovi returned into action against the Terapins and set tone immediately for the Vols.
Vescovi missed Tennessee’s last two contests with a left shoulder sprain that he suffered in the Vols’ win over McNeese State. The First Team All-SEC shooting guard is averaging 12 points, five rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game on the season.
“If you’re making shots, it all looks pretty,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “But can you win when it’s ugly? And I thought that second half was certainly ugly for us, but we found a way to win the game.”
The Vols shot 11 of 39 (28.2%) in the first half, but led 34-17 as the Terrapins made only 3 of 24 (12.5%), missing 20 of their final 21 shots before going into half.
Jonas Aidoo missed his first game of the season due to illness. The sophomore has been a wreaking havoc for Tennessee this season. The 6-foot-11 forward is averaging 4.3 points and 4.9 boards per game but has been a real problem on the defensive end on the hardwood.
Tyreke Key scored nine points and Julian Phillips had six points and 10 rebounds for the Volunteers, who amped it up on defense in the second half. The Vols began the game allowing just 51.2 points per contest, third fewest in the nation, while limiting opponents to 21.6% shooting from 3-point land, the lowest figure in Division I.
Down by 16 points in the second half, The Terps went into a full-court press mode and forced three turnovers during a 12-0 run.
“We were trying to go with it the whole game — it’s just when you only make three field goals in the first half, it’s kind of hard to press, kind of have to make baskets to press,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard said.
A deep trey by Key ended the run, then Maryland scored the next five points and trimmed the lead 48-46 on a pair of free throws by Ian Martinez. The Terrapins got within two points again at 51-49 when Martinez hit one of two free throws, after which Ziegler hit a three with 3:05 left in the game.
Hakim Hart made a easy bunny around the rim for Maryland, which then forced the Vols into a shot clock violation. Both teams combined to miss their next five shots before Hart scored a second-chance chippie with 24 seconds on the clock to cut the lead to 55-53.
Key made one of two foul shots with seven seconds left and Young missed a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It was the second straight subpar shooting game for the Terrapins, who shot 49.3% from the field during their 8-0 start but have shot just 35.5% in the last two games. The 18-point deficit was the biggest of the season for the Terps.
“In the second half, we knew that they were going to come out fighting,” Zeigler said. “They knew what they had to do and they upped their pressure.”
Tennessee: Visiting Arizona next Saturday for the first time since 1998.
Maryland: Hosting No. 14 UCLA on Wednesday night — the Terrapins’ third game against a ranked opponent this month.