Josiah-Jordan James scored 20 points, Santiago Vescovi added 15 and No. 17 Tennessee defeated Ole Miss 70-55 in the second round of the SEC tournament on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.
The fifth-seeded Volunteers (23-9) will continue their defense of the tournament title when they play fourth-seeded Missouri, which had a double-bye, in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.
Myles Burns scored 14 and Jaemyn Brakefield and Matthew Murrell added 12 apiece to lead 13th-seeded Ole Miss (12-21), which finished 2-3 under acting head coach Win Case, who was promoted from assistant coach when Kermit Davis was fired last month.
Tennessee, which had lost its last five games away from home and six of its last 10 overall, used a defense ranked third in the country in fewest points allowed to limit the Rebels to 22 second-half points.
James started the second-half scoring by making two free throws and a 3-pointer to give the Vols a 44-33 lead.
Robert Allen followed with a layup for the Rebels’ first points and the margin alternated between nine and 11 points for several minutes.
Ole Miss climbed within 52-48 before Tyreke Key and Vescovi both made a 3-pointer during a 12-2 run that gave Tennessee a comfortable 64-50 lead with 7:39 left in the game.
The first 10 minutes of the game featured five ties and five lead changes, the last of which came when Burns’ steal and dunk gave Ole Miss a 21-19 lead.
That was part of an 8-0 run that gave the Rebels a six-point lead before Jonas Aidoo’s jumper started an 8-0 response that put the Vols in front 27-25.
The score was tied three more times before Ole Miss committed its first turnover of the game with 4:21 left in the half and Vescovi followed with a 3-pointer that gave Tennessee a 34-31 lead.
James beat the buzzer with another 3-pointer, pushing the Vols’ lead to 39-33 at halftime.
–Field Level Media