Courtesy / UT Athletics


Courtesy / UT Athletics

Game Recap: Men’s Basketball | January 13, 2024

ATHENS, Ga. – After watching a 14-point lead turn into an 11-point deficit with under six-and-a-half minutes left, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team came all the way back to defeat Georgia, 85-79, Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum.

Fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht poured in a game-high 36 points, the second-most of his career, for fifth-ranked Tennessee (12-4, 2-1 SEC) in a thrilling victory to snap the Bulldogs’ 10-game winning streaks both overall and at home.

The Volunteers used an 8-0, 41-second surge to grab an early 14-6 lead after just five minutes, with Knecht notching nine of the team’s points. They upped the advantage to 11, 28-17, with 9:54 on the clock after an 8-of-10 shooting stretch that included five straight makes.

Tennessee extended its margin to a game-best 14, 42-28, with 4:01 to go, but Georgia (12-4, 2-1 SEC) answered with nine straight points in 2:58 to make it a five-point affair with 49 seconds left before the intermission. Neither team scored after that and the score sat at 42-37 through 20 minutes.

The Volunteers, following a 16-of-28 (57.1 percent) start, missed their final seven shots of the half and did not score in the last four minutes of the frame. Their stingy defense, though, helped them maintain the two-possession lead at the break, as Georgia was just 10-of-35 (28.6 percent) in the first half.

Georgia hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the opening 34 seconds of the second half to go ahead, 43-42, and make it a 15-0 run over 3:32. After Tennessee regained a four-point lead, the Bulldogs scored eight consecutive points in 41 seconds to take a 53-49 lead with 16:06 remaining. They upped their cushion as high as 11, 69-58, with 8:29 to go.

Buoyed by six straight made field goals after making just five of its prior 23, Tennessee trimmed the deficit to two, 78-76, with 3:28 on the ticker. Knecht then tied the score at 78 on a pair of free throws with 2:33 to play, making it an 8-0 surge in 2:17 and giving him 31 points on the day.

The Thornton, Colo., native then put Tennessee ahead, 81-79, on a 3-pointer with 1:56 left. He then added two more free throws with 40 ticks left to stretch the advantage to four. After a defensive stop, junior guard Zakai Zeigler then hit two free throws of his own to put Tennessee ahead by six, with those shots proving to be the final points of the affair.

In total, the Volunteers ended the game on a 21-4 run in the last 6:08 to flip an 11-point deficit into a six-point victory. They outscored the home team by a 15-1 margin in the final five minutes, including scoring the only seven points in the closing two minutes.

Knecht registered his three-dozen points, one shy of his career-best mark, on 12-of-20 shooting overall, including a 5-of-8 clip from deep, along with a 7-of-9 tally at the line. He scored 20 points in the second half alone, his second straight game reaching that number after the intermission.

Zeigler totaled 18 points, a game-best five assists and a co-game-high two steals in the win. Junior forward Jonas Aidoo recorded 10 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and a co-career-best five blocks in a career-high 35 minutes of action. It marked his fifth double-double as a collegian, including his fourth of 2023-24, and gave him the most rebounds in a game by a Volunteer since January 2019.

Senior guard Jabri Abdur-Rahim paced the Bulldogs with 21 points, as he went 5-of-9 beyond the arc and made all six of his free throws. Graduate student guard Noah Thomasson compiled 14 points, but Tennessee held him to 5-of-15 shooting. Freshman guard Silas Demary Jr., and junior guard R.J. Melendez each chipped in 13 points for Georgia.

Tennessee limited the home team to 23-of-69 (33.3 percent) shooting, while amassing a 29-of-61 (47.5 percent) ledger of its own. The Bulldogs shot 14-of-33 (42.4 percent) from deep, but dominant interior defense limited them to just a 9-of-36 (25.0 percent) clip inside the arc. The victors also doubled up Georgia in paint points with a commanding 36-18 edge.

The Volunteers now return home to Knoxville, Tenn., where they play two games at Food City Center next week, the first of which is Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Florida, live on ESPN.

To keep up with the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team on social media, follow @Vol_Hoops on Instagram and X/Twitter, as well as /tennesseebasketball on Facebook.  

• Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes now owns 791 victories in his career, 11 behind John Calipari—the lone active DI coach above him—for No. 14 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).
• Tennessee now has 100 victories over Georgia, as it moved to 100-62 in the all-time series, which dates back to Jan. 17, 1913.
• Georgia and Vanderbilt (129) are the two schools the Volunteers have triple-digit wins against in program history.
• Tennessee is now 6-1 in its last seven matchups versus Georgia, winning all six times it was ranked and losing the lone time it was not, after going 2-9 in the prior 11 meetings.
• Additionally, Tennessee has now won back-to-back road games against the Bulldogs for the first time since Feb. 16, 2008, and Jan. 10, 2009, which was also the last time it played consecutive road games at Stegeman Coliseum as a ranked team.
• The Volunteers moved to 28-8 (.778) while ranked in the AP top five during Barnes’ tenure, across four different seasons.
• In the last eight days, Tennessee has snapped the co-longest winning streak in Ole Miss history (13) and the fourth-longest winning streak in Georgia history (10).
• The last time the Volunteers overcame a double-digit deficit to win was Dec. 28, 2022, at Ole Miss when they trailed by 10, 27-17, in the first half and earned a four-point triumph, 63-59.
• The Volunteers snapped a streak of 15 straight setbacks when trailing with 10 minutes left in regulation, a 13-game skid when trailing with five minutes left in regulation and a 12-game losing streak when behind with two minutes left in regulation.
• Tennessee committed 10 turnovers in the first half, while Georgia had just two giveaways in the opening 20 minutes.
• After the Volunteers built their 14-point lead, the Bulldogs went on an extended 41-16 run over 14-and-a-half minutes to go up by 11.
• Tennessee started 6-of-14 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range, missed its next five attempts and then finished with a 3-of-7 (42.9 percent) mark down the stretch.
• Georgia opened 1-of-6 (16.7 percent) on 3-pointers, then went 13-of-22 (59.1 percent) before missing each of its last five attempts in the closing three minutes after the Volunteers got within two.
• Zeigler moved past current Tennessee radio analyst Bert Bertelkamp (1976-80) to enter the top 15 on the program’s all-time assists leaderboard, now with 335.
• Knecht’s 16 first-half points marked his top total before the break, the latter besting his prior high of 15 against Syracuse on Nov. 20, 2023, in Honolulu.
• The 20 points Knecht scored in the second half gave him three separate games this season in which he has scored at least that many after the intermission and he has now done so in back-to-back contests.
• Knecht’s 36 points marked the 43rd time in program history a player scored at least three-dozen points, including the 13th on the road and the 10th in an SEC road contest.
• Knecht, who has played only four road games at Tennessee, is the fourth player in program history to score 35-plus on the road multiple times, joining Allan Houston (twice), Bernard King (thrice) and Grant Williams (twice).
• In each of Tennessee’s four true road games this season, Knecht has scored 24-plus points and he is averaging 31.3 points per game in those contests, while he also had 28 in an exhibition outing at Michigan State (Oct. 29, 2023) that does not count towards his stats.
• Knecht is first SEC player in the last 14 seasons to post 24-plus points in four straight road games in a single season, as the only one to do so in that time—Auburn’s Chris Denson—did it over the course of two years, from March 2013 through January 2014.
• The only other SEC player in the last 19 seasons (2005-24) to log 28-plus points in three consecutive road games is LSU Antonio Blakeney, who did so in February 2017.
• Prior to Knecht, the last Volunteer with 25-plus points in back-to-back games was Admiral Schofield, who did so over five years ago, notching 30 against top-ranked Gonzaga in Phoenix on Dec. 9, 2018, and then 29 at Memphis on Dec. 15, 2018.
• The last Tennessee player, per Elias Sports Bureau, with 25-plus points in consecutive games that were both on the road against DI foes was Chris Lofton nearly 18 years ago when he had 31 on Feb. 7, 2006, at Kentucky and then 33 on Feb. 11, 2006, at Georgia, while Jordan McRae did it back-to-back in November 2011 with one of the contests against a non-DI team.
• According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a Volunteer had 25-plus points in back-to-back conference games, regardless of location, was when Kevin Punter Jr., did so nearly eight years ago, logging 26 on Jan. 20, 2016, against Vanderbilt and then 36 on Jan. 23, 2016, versus South Carolina.
• Knecht is the first SEC player with back-to-back 28-point games since LSU’s K.J. Williams had 35 against Vanderbilt on Feb. 22, 2023, and then 29 on Feb. 25, 2023, at Ole Miss, with Williams the only other SEC player in the last four seasons (2021-24) to do that and average at least 32.0 points per game in that stretch.
• The 64 points Knecht posted in the last two games is tied for the fourth-most in a two-game span by any SEC player over the last seven seasons (2018-24).
• According to Jared Berson, Knecht is the first Volunteer with multiple 35-point games in a single season since Allan Houston in 1990-91 and is also the third DI player with multiple such performances in 2023-24, alongside Purdue’s Zach Edey and McNeese State’s Shahada Wells.
• Knecht became the first Volunteer to attempt 20 shots in a game since Kennedy Chandler went 13-of-20 on Dec. 4, 2021, at Colorado.
• Aidoo is the fourth player to post at least 10 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks against a DI team this season, as well as the first player to do so against a Power Six opponent since last season when Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis did so at Minnesota on Jan. 25, 2023.
• Before Aidoo, the last SEC player with at least 10 points, 15 rebound and five blocks in a contest was Auburn’s Walker Kesser on Feb. 8, 2022, in an overtime affair at Arkansas, while the last to do so in a regulation contest was Ole Miss’ Nysier Brooks on Jan. 8, 2022, against Mississippi State.
• Aidoo became the first Tennessee player with 15-plus rebounds in a game since Kyle Alexander logged 17 at Missouri on Jan. 8, 2019.
• Additionally, Aidoo became the first Volunteer with seven-plus offensive rebounds in a contest since Yves Pons had eight at Alabama on Feb. 4, 2020.
• Aidoo pulled down double-digit rebounds for the seventh time in his career, including the fifth this season.
• The 15 rebounds for Aidoo eclipsed the career-best figure of 13 he logged on Dec. 28, 2022, at Ole Miss.
• Aidoo also notched four-plus blocks for the fourth time as collegian, including the second in SEC play and first in 2023-24.
• The five blocks for Aidoo matched the career high he set on Nov. 30, 2022, versus McNeese State.
• Aidoo’s prior career high in minutes was 32, set just two games prior on Jan. 6, 2024, versus No. 22/19 Ole Miss.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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