Through the first few games of Tennessee’s men’s basketball season, freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler has wowed at every turn.
But on Sunday, it was another freshman point guard who led the way — and he was celebrated accordingly.
Zakai Zeigler scored a career-high 18 points against No. 18 North Carolina, marking his coming-out party in the Vols’ 89-72 win — UT’s first over the Tar Heels since 1949.
And when Zeigler entered the locker room, he was greeted by a swarm of orange-clad teammates who gathered to welcome the New York native.
Zeigler wasn’t alone in his efforts, though, as he, Chandler and Santiago Vescovi combined for 49 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds and four turnovers.
John Fulkerson added 13 points, while Justin Powell started in place of Josiah-Jordan James, who was out with flu-like symptoms.
Altogether, the win was a statement for Tennessee after the Vols were shellacked by No. 5 Villanova on Saturday.
Now, UT turns its attention to Presbyterian and Tennessee Tech before facing Colorado on December 4.
The schedule won’t lighten after that, as Tennessee will take on Texas Tech in New York.
Then, Rick Barnes’ team will return to Knoxville to face UNC Greensboro and USC Upstate before taking on Memphis in Nashville on December 18.
Before more marquee matchups, though, UT will get a chance to regroup against the Golden Eagles.
We’ll see if this team can hit its stride in conjunction with those bigger games. Barnes certainly thinks they’ve got a long way to go, even after a big win in front of VFL and Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams.
“That’s the Tennessee Volunteers we know,” Barnes said.
“We’re not even close to what we can be. This is just the first step.”