Vols fall to Colorado in college basketball’s first big upset

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee senior guard Josiah-Jordan James scored 15 points during Sunday afternoon’s 78-66 upset loss to Colorado inside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

Tennessee became the first notable upset victim of the college basketball season Sunday afternoon, when the No. 11 Volunteers fell 78-66 to Colorado inside Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.

The Vols were beyond wretched from the floor, connecting on 16 of 63 shots for a 26.2%-clip, in succumbing to a Buffaloes team that was coming off Friday night's 83-74 loss to Grambling State. Tennessee senior guard Santiago Vescovi and sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler were a combined 6-of-25 from the floor and 4-of-17 from the 3-point line.

"I didn't like our mindset coming in," said coach Rick Barnes, whose Vols blasted Gonzaga in an exhibition and opened last Monday with a 75-43 thrashing of Tennessee Tech. "If we think we're good enough to just come out and play, today proved the fact that we're not. Whether we're making 3s or not, you should be able to play better basketball than we played today.

"Our defense — they got whatever they wanted in the second half and especially in the last 10 minutes."

Barnes added that Zeigler was "totally out of control" and would be replaced in the starting lineup.

Sunday marked the third of three games between the Buffaloes and Vols that were scheduled during the coronavirus pandemic. Tennessee prevailed 56-47 in Knoxville during the 2020-21 season opener and cruised to a 69-54 win last December in Boulder.

Senior guards Josiah-Jordan James and Tyreke Key scored 15 apiece for the Vols (1-1), while the Buffaloes (2-1) were led by 23 points from KJ Simpson and 14 from Tristan da Silva, whose 3-pointer with 5:01 remaining gave Colorado a 66-52 lead. The Buffaloes, who were 15.5-point underdogs, shot 43.5% from the floor.

"We definitely didn't come into this game with the right mindset," James said. "This is a good lesson for us."

The Vols led for most of the first half, taking a 26-18 lead at the 6:44 mark on a Key 3-pointer, before going into intermission with a 34-32 advantage. Colorado went ahead to stay at 39-38 on Jalen Gabbidon's 3-pointer with 18:12 left.

Tennessee senior forward Uros Plavsic rolled his ankle less than eight minutes into the ESPN-televised matchup and did not return, leaving the former Hamilton Heights star uncertain for Wednesday night's home game against Florida Gulf Coast.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.