Vols survive scare against Louisiana in NCAA opening round, 58-55

This marks the fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance for Tennessee.
Vols practice at Amway Center
Vols practice at Amway Center(Tennessee Athletic Communications)
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 6:17 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:01 PM CDT
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After an Olivier free throw, Josiah and Uros got in on the scoring first in the second half. Josiah got another quick layup after a Santi steal and assist on the fast break.

Tennessee Basketball in the NCAA Tournament

Coach Barnes speaks after the Vols beat the Ragin Cajuns in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Posted by WVLT on Thursday, March 16, 2023

Louisiana’s first three point field goal didn’t come until the 12:46 mark of the second half. Two possessions later, Tyreke Key matched it with a three of his own from the near wing - his first from deep.

Tennessee led by 18 after the second media timeout of the second half - its largest lead of the game up to that point.

That lead immediately dwindled down to five after a 13-0 run by Louisiana - fueled by three made three pointers among five Louisiana field goals made in a row.

Both teams traded baskets down the stretch until the final media timeout. Heading back to the huddle, both teams were assessed technical fouls.

Louisiana knocked down a three to cut its deficit to six after a three-plus minute scoring drought by both teams. Jahmai Mashack drew an offensive foul to give Tennessee the ball back with 2:08 remaining and a seven point lead.

Louisiana hit another three with 1:10 to go to cut Tennessee’s lead back down to five. UT came up empty on its next offensive possession, but was able to hold onto the ball for a majority of the duration of the shot clock. A blocking foul by James sent the Cajuns to the line where they connected on both free throws to make the score 56-53 with 23 seconds to go.

A Louisiana foul send James to the line where he missed the first and made the second to make it a four-point game. Louisiana missed a three on its next possession and was forced to foul on the inbounds. Julian Phillips - one of Tennessee’s best free throw shooters - who also missed the first and connected on the second to give UT a five-point lead with 7.4 to play.

Louisiana hit a shot in the paint as time expired to cut Tennessee’s deficit down to three with no time remaining.


Tennessee took a quick 7-2 lead thanks to a few free throws from Nkamhoua, a post touch for Plavsic and a three on the wing by James on his first shot of the night.

A held ball turnover by Plavsic led to a Jordan Brown layup to cut Tennessee’s lead down to one, 10-9. That turnover led to two more in two possessions by UT - one by Vescovi and another by James leading into the first media timeout.

The three consecutive Tennessee turnovers helped Louisiana go on a 7-0 run before the break.

Coming out of the timeout, Tobe Awaka snagged an offensive board that helped Tyreke Key add two second-chance points off a midrange jumper. Vescovi banked a three in on Tennessee’s next possession to give Tennessee a 15-11 lead.

Tobe helped block a Louisiana layup. Tyreke Key snagged the rebound and pushed it up court and was fouled on a layup attempt of his own. Key knocked down his two free throws and Tennessee quickly got the ball back after a Jordan Brown turnover. The Vols lead 17-11 after the under-12 media timeout in the first half thanks to another 7-0 scoring run.

The Vols locked in on defense throughout the next media timeout - forcing four Louisiana turnovers while keeping the Cajuns off the scoreboard. Tennessee led 19-13 with 7:58 to play in the first half.

UT went cold offensively after that - going 0-for-7 and turning the ball over six times in just over six minutes, leading to an 8-0 Louisiana run that tied the game at 19-19 with 4:12 to go in the first half.

Tennessee went on a little run of its own - an 11-0 outburst that kept Louisiana off the scoreboard for the final 4:43 of the first half.

The Vols went into the locker room with a 30-19 lead.

Tennessee went with a familiar starting five to for its NCAA Tournament opener. Guards Santiago Vescovi, Jahmai Mashack, Josiah-Jordan James tipped off with forwards Olivier Nkamhoua and Uros Plavsic.


The No. 4 seed Tennessee basketball team begins NCAA Tournament play Thursday in Orlando, taking on No. 13 seed Louisiana as part of the East Region at 9:40 p.m. ET inside the Amway Center.

Tennessee (23-10) is coming off a regular season in which it played 16 games against 12 different teams in the NCAA Tournament—highlighted by wins over No. 1 seeds Alabama and Kansas and over No. 2 seed Texas.

The Vols’ inclusion in this year’s NCAA Tournament marks the fifth straight NCAA Tournament that the Vols have made. Thursday marks the 11th all-time meeting between Tennessee and Louisiana, with two of the previous meetings also having taken place in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols hold a 9-1 lead in the series.

With a win Thursday, Tennessee would advance to face the winner of No. 5 seed Duke (26-8) and No. 12 seed Oral Roberts (30-4) on Saturday. Time and television network for Saturday will be determined following the conclusion of Thursday’s games.