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No. 7 Tennessee toughs out win over Ole Miss

Dec 28, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels guard Daeshun Ruffin (24) passes the ball against Tennessee Volunteers guard Zakai Zeigler (5) during the first half at The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Santiago Vescovi scored a game-high 22 points and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a slow start to beat host Ole Miss 63-59 in the SEC opener for both teams Wednesday in Oxford, Miss.

Zakai Zeigler added 13 points, and Jonas Aidoo had eight points and 13 rebounds for the Volunteers (11-2, 1-0 SEC).

Jaemyn Brakefield scored 18 and Amaree Abram had 10 to lead the Rebels (8-5, 0-1), who lost for the fifth time in seven games.

Ole Miss led by six points at halftime, but five straight by Zeigler helped Tennessee tie the score at 36 early in the second half.

The Rebels’ first field goal of the half didn’t come until Brakefield made a 3-pointer nearly seven minutes in, but Vescovi answered with a tying 3-pointer.

The score was tied again at 41 and 43 before Olivier Nkamhoua’s jumper gave the Vols their first lead of the second half midway through. Vescovi followed with a jumper and Jahmai Mashack added a free throw to increase Tennessee’s lead to 48-43.

Brakefield made two 3-pointers to get the Rebels within one point with five minutes remaining.

The Vols increased the lead to 57-52 on a layup by Zeigler before Brakefield made two free throws with 2:29 left.

Zeigler’s two free throws pushed the lead back to five, but Daeshun Ruffin’s 3-pointer trimmed the lead to 59-57 with 59 seconds left.

Two more free throws by Zeigler with 29 seconds left and a steal and two free throws by Vescovi sealed the victory.

Brakefield and Abram each made a 3-pointer as the Rebels opened a 27-17 lead.

Nkamhoua made a layup to get Tennessee within six points before Ole Miss pushed the lead back to 10.

The Vols trimmed the lead to four points on a 3-pointer by Vescovi before Abram’s layup produced the only points by either team in the final 3 1/2 minutes, leaving Ole Miss with a 34-28 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media