JJJ vs FGCU

KNOXVILLE, TN - Tennessee Guard Josiah-Jordan James (30) during the game against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at Thompson-Boling Arena on Nov. 16, 2022.

After being dealt a shocking loss last week, No. 22 Tennessee bounced back Wednesday, picking up a blowout win over Florida Gulf Coast 81-50.

The Vols looked like a different team than in the loss Sunday, scoring efficiently and defending the ball well.

“Our mentality was the biggest difference,” forward Olivier Nkamhoua said. “We kind of strained out and buckled down and just came in with a mentality that we play most of our games with. We locked in, took the loss the right way and came in with the right mindset.”

Here are three takeaways from Tennessee’s second win of the season.

Mayshack has breakout game

Before the season started, Rick Barnes said that Jahmai Mayshack showed the most improvement over the offseason. He may have proved Barnes right on Wednesday.

The sophomore guard had a career-high 10 points along with four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes against FGCU. All 10 of his points came in the second half.

“He plays defense hard, he wants to score, he wants to guard, he wants to win,” Nkamhoua said. “There’s not too many guys I’ve been around like that.”

Things got started for Mayshack on an authoritative dunk early in the second half. From there, shots around the basket started to fall.

Mayshack still has a lot of basketball to play, but he showed a step in the right direction Wednesday and will be a nice piece to the Vols’ rotation.

“Jahmai gets better every day. I think he’s figured it out,” Nkamhoua said. “Figured it out from a sense of, he has to get better every day, he has to be willing to learn every day, he has to take criticism. He’s always been good at hearing those truths.”

James performs in first start

Josiah-Jordan James got his first start of the season Wednesday after coming off the bench in the first two games while still recovering from an offseason knee procedure.

James wasted no time getting in rhythm, scoring 12 points in the first half with a pair of threes. He finished the game with 18 points on an efficient 5-for-8 from the field and 4-for-6 from deep. He also tacked on six boards and a pair of assists.

As one of the oldest players on the tema, James has been the glue for Tennessee, and his presence was felt on Wednesday.

Backcourt plays controlled

After the Vols’ loss on Sunday, Barnes said that one of the biggest issues was the backcourt, saying it played “out of control.”

Tennessee’s backcourt flipped the script on Wednesday, turning the ball over just eight times and creating shots rather than forcing them.

Zakai Zeigler, who Barnes brought off the bench rather than starting on Wednesday, had six points and six rebounds. Santiago Vescovi, who was playing with a jammed finger, hit two early threes and a layup to give Tennessee some early momentum. He also had three assists.

“Our guards had a lot more confidence,” Nkamhoua said. “They had a mindset of knowing what they want to do, knowing where they want to get the ball. I think that always helps us when we have clear objectives.”

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