No. 5 Zakai Zeigler gets some congratulations from his teammates against Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tuesday Jan. 10, 2022.

It seemed like every shot Tennessee took in the second half of Saturday's game against LSU was going to fall as the Vols drained 12 shots from deep.

The hot shooting, plus a 22-point performance from Josiah-Jordan James was enough to get No. 9 Tennessee (16-3, 6-1 SEC) past LSU (12-7, 1-6) in Baton Rouge.

James returned to the starting lineup for the first time this season, easing his way back after an offseason knee procedure, and needed no time getting adjusted.

“Josiah, we’ve really sort of kind of tried to use the games to get him where he needs to be with his cardio,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “Today, I thought he did a good job.”

It was also another masterclass in passing from Zakai Zeigler. The sophomore got his second consecutive start and scored 12 points and added 10 assists, his second career double-double.

“It’s neat because a year and a half into his college career and the way he has worked to continue to learn the game, that’s what he’s doing,” Barnes said. “He’s going to continue to get better-and-better each time out.”

The big performances gave Tennessee a 39-22 edge in the first half, and from there the Vols didn't look back.

The Vols also managed to stay alive this week despite some key players missing games. On Tuesday against Mississippi State, Tennessee was without Tyreke Key and Santiago Vescovi. On Saturday, the Vols were down a big man as Uros Plasvic missed the game with illness.

“I’m proud of these guys, I really am,” Barnes said. “Simply because we haven’t been able to do a lot of what we like to do in practice with it.”

The injuries gave Tennessee a chance to utilize different lineups. In addition to Zeigler and James joining the starting lineup, Tyreke Key came off the bench for the Vols, which led to a spark after the starters came out.

Key finished the game with 10 points.

The role seems like it might be a better fit for Key, who has struggled as a start at moments this season.

“Tyreke went and got three big offensive rebounds,” Barnes said. “I thought he took some great, balanced shots. Worked hard defensively. He’ll play more minutes.”

The win caps off a two-game road stint following the Vols' upset loss to Kentucky a week ago. Since being stunned, Tennessee has returned to its stride and looks to ride the successful road trip into a big week where it faces Georgia and No. 7 Texas.

“January is not the time to stall,” Barnes said. “It’s not the time to think, we’re okay it’s just going to happen. It won’t happen unless we make it happen. We still have to get consistent. We still can get so much more out of our frontline.”

Despite the hot start to SEC play, Barnes knows that his team won’t let up and will keep its foot on the gas heading into a tough stretch.

“We will because they care and they want to do it,” Barnes said. “You’re in the end of January now and it’s time to put it down and know that we have to get better.”

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