Vols fall short down the stretch in 51-47 loss to #13 Memphis
A rough shooting night plagued No. 19 Tennessee, as the Vols dropped a low-scoring defensive battle to No. 13 Memphis at a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, 51-47.
Tennessee's 25 percent (15-for-60) shooting mark from the field was the lowest of the Rick Barnes era.
Despite the Vols' scoring struggles as a team, freshman Josiah-Jordan James posted a career-high 14 points that led all scorers in the loss.
The Vols (7-2) and Tigers battled evenly to begin the second half after Memphis (9-1) took a one-point lead into halftime. Memphis gained a bit of separation at the 12:03 mark after Tyler Harris and D.J. Jeffries made back-to-back threes to put the Tigers in front, 37-33.
After a 3-pointer from Jordan Bowden and a conversion on a contested layup from John Fulkerson, Tennessee took its first lead in more than eight minutes of game time at 43-42 on a Yves Pons' turnaround jumper in the lane with 5:56 remaining.
Over the course of the game's next four minutes, the lead changed hands four times before Memphis' Damion Baugh hit a corner 3-pointer at the 1:43 mark.
With Tennessee trailing 49-47 with 20 seconds remaining, Pons missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Tigers grabbed the rebound. Alex Lomax then made two free throws to seal the game.
Despite a sluggish start from the field, Tennessee built a 17-5 lead over the game's first 12 minutes. During that stretch, the Vols held Memphis to a 1-for-13 shooting mark, as the Tigers went more than 11 minutes between field goals.
James paced the Vols early on, scoring Tennessee's first eight points and 11 of its first 15. In the first six minutes of action, he also grabbed three rebounds and had two steals.
After the Vols' initial spurt, Memphis fought back for the remainder of the first half, eventually taking a 25-24 lead into the break on a Harris layup as the clock expired.
Three Tennessee true freshmen – James, Drew Pember and Davonte Gaines – combined to score 17 of the Vols' 24 first-half points.
SOLD OUT TBA: Saturday's contest had an announced attendance of 21,868, marking the first sellout of the season at Thompson-Boling Arena. The crowd was the 10th-largest at Thompson-Boling's current capacity and the 39th-largest in the arena's history.
UP NEXT: Tennessee travels north to face another AAC opponent, battling with Cincinnati on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2.