Dec. 5—For a second consecutive December, it was Rocky Top over Rocky Mountain High in men's basketball.
Tennessee freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler scored a season-high 29 points and junior guard Santiago Vescovi didn't miss from the floor as the No. 13 Volunteers whipped Colorado 69-54 Saturday afternoon at the CU Events Center in Boulder. It was the first true road atmosphere for the Vols since March 3, 2020, when they upset Kentucky 81-73 in Rupp Arena the week before the outbreak of the coronavirus brought the sports world to a halt.
The Vols, who improved to 6-1 entering a Monday night date with Texas Tech in New York City, collected nine steals and limited the Buffaloes to 34.5% shooting.
"I thought our defensive effort was terrific today, and I thought we grew up a little bit more," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "I told Kennedy that I thought they would let him have all the 3s that he would want but that he could get to the rim if he wanted to."
Tennessee won last season's matchup 56-47 in Knoxville, which served as the opener for the Vols after multiple games were canceled due to COVID-19 issues.
Chandler connected on 13 of his 20 shots Saturday, which included 10 made layups. Vescovi was 5-of-5 from the floor and 3-of-3 from 3-point range in tallying 13 points.
"Honestly, I didn't even know I took 20 shots," Chandler said. "I was just playing the game. I don't think I've ever taken 20 shots in my life."
The Buffaloes (6-3) jumped out to an 8-0 start, but Tennessee regrouped to take its first lead at 14-13 on a Vescovi 3-pointer at the 11:51 mark of the first half. The Vols led 34-24 at halftime, with Chandler shooting 8-of-11 to tally 16 points at the break.
Tennessee only suffered five turnovers in the first 20 minutes while forcing Colorado into 12.
Colorado pulled within five on three occasions during the second half, with Justin Powell's 3 with 6:48 remaining the exclamation point as Tennessee built a 58-45 lead.
Saturday marked the return of Josiah-Jordan James from a finger injury, with the versatile junior compiling five points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
"I knew I was going to be a little bit out of shape," James said. "I just wanted to come in here and there. I didn't have to play an absurd amount of the 40 minutes. I just knew that my team needed me for this two-game stretch."
Said Barnes: "Josiah James was phenomenal. What he did with only two days of practice and impacting the game on both ends of the floor was really special."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.