No. 22 Vols aim to make a point at guard vs. Florida Gulf Coast

No. 22 Tennessee hopes a change at point guard will lead to a bounce-back win against visiting Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday night in Knoxville, Tenn.

Coach Rick Barnes said Zakai Zeigler, who started the season’s first two games, will come off the bench after shooting 4-for-12 and finishing with 12 points and four assists Sunday in a 78-66 upset loss to Colorado in Nashville. Zeigler scored 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting in a season-opening, 75-43 win over Tennessee Tech on Nov. 7.

“Zakai was wild,” Barnes said after the loss to Colorado. “He was totally out of control to the point where I’ve already told him, ‘You’re not starting,’ because him starting the game hasn’t worked very well in terms of the way we want to get started.”

The Volunteers’ issues against the Buffaloes weren’t limited to Zeigler, who likely will be replaced by Indiana State transfer guard Tyreke Key, the Vols’ leading scorer (16 points per game). Zeigler is second with 12 points per game.

Tennessee (1-1) struggled offensively all game against Colorado, going 16-for-63 from the field (25.4 percent), including 10-for-37 (27 percent) from deep. Colorado outrebounded Tennessee 47-38 and scored 16 points off the Vols’ 15 turnovers.

The Volunteers made just one 2-point field goal in the first half, shooting 6-for-26 (23.1 percent), including 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) from 3-point range.

Tennessee was led by Josiah-Jordan James, who had 15 points and eight rebounds, while Key added 15 points and six rebounds.

“I’m disappointed and mad that we lost, but I’m also excited just to see how this team will respond,” said James, whose team dropped 11 spots in the rankings this week. “There’s a lot of great things that’s to come for this team, but it’s not just going to be handed to us.”

Florida Gulf Coast (2-1) is coming off a 105-61 hammering of visiting Ave Maria, an NAIA school, on Sunday.

Isaiah Thompson scored 21 points and made six of the Eagles’ school-record 17 3-pointers in 40 attempts. Thompson went 6-for-8 from deep, while Zach Anderson hit four of his five 3-point attempts to finish with 22 points with six rebounds and three assists.

Dahmir Bishop and Chase Johnston added 12 and 11 points for the Eagles, who led 62-27 at halftime and finished the night 40-for-79 (50.6 percent) from the field.

Florida Gulf Coast outrebounded the Gyrenes 51-31 and forced them to shoot 21-for-60 from the field (35 percent), including 9-for-28 (32.1 percent) from beyond the arc.

“I felt like we stuck to being who we are, defending and rebounding and sharing the basketball and creating good habits,” Eagles coach Pat Chambers said. “It easily could have turned into a bit of a circus, and it didn’t.”

Through three games, including a season-opening 74-61 win at Southern Cal and a 79-73 loss at San Diego, Johnston is averaging 18 points. Anderson averages 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, with Thompson adding 14 points a game.

–Field Level Media