KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Rocky Top was too much for top-ranked Alabama.
Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi each scored 15 points and No. 10 Tennessee extended the jinx for No. 1 teams, jolting the Crimson Tide 68-59 on Wednesday night.
On Monday, Alabama climbed to the top spot in The Associated Press poll for the first time since the 2002-03 season. But playing for the first time since the new rankings came out, the Crimson Tide (22-4, 12-1 SEC) led just once in the early going and committed 19 turnovers.
Alabama’s loss was the eighth by an AP No. 1 team this season. That ties the most in a regular season with 1993-94 in a stat dating to 1948-49.
“We turned the ball over too much tonight,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “(Tennessee) got 26 points off the turnovers. Their physicality. … They got into our guards and we couldn’t handle it.”
Tennessee bounced back from a pair of last-second defeats.
“After those tough losses, we stayed with it,” coach Rick Barnes said. “We didn’t splinter.”
Vols big man Jonas Aidoo added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Volunteers (20-6, 9-5).
“It takes confidence,” he said. “We go through the ups and downs. We just do what we do and play hard and we’ll be fine.”
Unlike football, when Tennessee fans stormed their home field after beating No. 3 Alabama 52-49 in October, this sellout crowd stayed in the seats when it was over. “Rocky Top” loudly blared as the Volunteers ended a two-game skid.
Alabama became the last Power 5 men’s team to lose a conference game this season. The Tide’s only lead in this game came at 12-11.
Brandon Miller led Alabama with 15 points along with 10 rebounds, Jaden Bradley added 14 points and Nimari Burnett had 11.
“We shot 6 of 20 at the rim,” Oats said. “(Tennessee) was able to finish stuff at the rim.”
Uros Plavsic, who scored 10 points, connected on a three-point play to give Tennessee a 56-47 lead with just over five minutes left in the game.
Vescovi tossed a lob that Olivier Nkamhoua caught in mid-air and followed with a slam to put Tennessee ahead 19-15 with 7:42 to play in the first half. It was tied at 29 at the break.
“We were down on ourselves a little bit,” Zeigler said. “We were down 17 (in the second half Saturday against Missouri) and we came back. We have to bring that (second-half effort) every night.”
Alabama: Alabama is 14-13 against Top 25 teams during Oats’ five years.
Tennessee: A pair of buzzer-beating losses only cost the Vols four places in this week’s poll. . Tennessee has won six of its last seven games against Top 10 teams. . Earlier this season, the Vols lost at No. 9 Arizona.
Alabama: Big man Charles Bediako has been hobbled with a “minor knee injury” he sustained in Saturday’s win over Auburn. He was able to play in the game. . Heading into the game, Miller was the only Division I player to score 470 points, grab 200 rebounds and make 75 3-pointers. Zeigler was matched up against Miller’s team in an AAU game a couple years ago when he caught Barnes’ eye.
Tennessee: Two starters – Josiah-Jordan James (ankle) and Julian Phillips (hip flexor) – have been struggling with injuries and missed the game. . Six of Tennessee’s seven final games are against teams in the upper half of the SEC. … How special was Wednesday night’s game? More than 20,000 Vols fans made an orange and white checkerboard out of Thompson-Boling Arena, something that’s only done once a season. … Sophomore Jahmai Mashack made his first career start.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide will be at home against Georgia on Saturday. The two teams have not met this season.
Tennessee: The Vols will travel to Kentucky on Saturday, focused on avenging a 63-56 loss a month ago.