Courtesy / UT Athletics


Courtesy / UT Athletics

Game Recap: Men’s Basketball | January 20, 2024

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In a matchup of two teams in the top seven of the KenPom national rankings, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team turned in an impressive 91-71 victory Saturday afternoon over Alabama.

Fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht dropped 25 points, becoming the first SEC player in over three years with four straight 25-point outings, as No. 6/7 Tennessee (14-4, 4-1 SEC) claimed a wire-to-wire triumph at a sold-out Food City Center.

The Volunteers scored 16 of the game’s opening 23 points, en route to building a 14-point edge, 30-16, with 8:44 on the first-half ticker. At that time, Knecht (nine) and junior forward Jonas Aidoo (10) had more combined points than the Crimson Tide, which then had just one point and four turnovers—already tied for his second-most in a full game this season—from senior guard Mark Sears, the SEC’s leading scorer.

Alabama (12-6, 4-1 SEC) twice cut the deficit to nine, but Tennessee responded to thrice stretch it all the way to 16. The Crimson Tide scored six consecutive points in 91 seconds to get within three, but a 3-pointer by junior guard Jordan Gainey, who had 13 first-half points off the bench, made it a 13-point margin, 50-37, at the break.

Tennessee committed just four turnovers and went 19-of-40 (47.5 percent) in the first half to tie its most makes in any frame this season, while also notching nine steals and forcing 13 Crimson Tide turnovers at the other end.

The Volunteers held Alabama scoreless for a stretch of 3:48 early in the second half and scored six straight points in 1:58 during that span to claim a then-game-best 18-point advantage, 59-41, with 15:18 to go.

Tennessee eclipsed the 20-point margin for the first time, 73-52, with 8:36 remaining and pushed its edge all the way to 27, 81-54, with 5:29 to go after scoring eight straight points in 1:46. The Crimson Tide never got any closer the rest of the way, as Tennessee earned its third SEC home win by 19-plus in as many opportunities.

The Volunteers led for all but 37 seconds and held a double-digit advantage for the final 26:18 of the contest. Their 20-point win was the largest by any SEC team over the Crimson Tide since Feb. 2, 2019.

Knecht, who went 8-of-8 at the line just four days after hitting all nine of his free-throw attempts, led a quartet of double-digit Tennessee scorers. He scored 17 of his points in the first half alone.

Aidoo recorded 19 points for the second consecutive contest, shooting 9-of-14 from the field, while also blocking a game-high four shots. Gainey totaled 15 points, a season-high five rebounds and a season-best three steals. He went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 at the free-throw line.

Fifth-year guard Santiago Vescovi, who moved into ninth place on the SEC’s all-time 3-point leaderboard, added 10 points, a co-season-best five assists and two steals, with no turnovers. Junior guard Zakai Zeigler notched eight points, a game-best six assists and a season-high-tying four steals, while also committing no giveaways.

Sears finished as the lone player with over eight points for Alabama, KenPom’s top-ranked offense in the country. After Tennessee held him scoreless for the first 10-plus minutes, Sears ended up with 22 points, although he went just 1-of-3 from 3-point range. The Volunteers also forced him in to seven turnovers, his co-second-most as a collegian and his highest mark in two seasons at Alabama.

Tennessee forced 22 Alabama turnovers in total, the highest ledger for the Crimson Tide in a regulation affair since Feb. 12, 2022. It also marked the first time in nearly 17 years Alabama committed 20-plus turnovers with a margin of -15 or worse, with the last occurrence also at Tennessee on Feb. 21, 2007, in a game that went to overtime.

The victors, meanwhile, committed just seven turnovers and dished out 21 assists on their 32 made baskets, as well as registered a 23-4 edge in points off giveaways. Additionally, Tennessee held Alabama to just 4-of-21 (19.0 percent) 3-point shooting, its second-lowest mark of the season.

The Volunteers now have a midweek bye before resuming play Saturday at 6 p.m. ET in Nashville, Tenn., against Vanderbilt, live on SEC Network from Memorial Gymnasium.

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 793 victories in his career, 10 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).
• The Volunteers’ 20-point win marked their largest margin of victory over Alabama in SEC play since a 36-point decision, 100-64, on Jan. 30, 1999.
• The last time Tennessee defeated Alabama by 20-plus in any game—its only time doing so since the turn of the century—was on March 13, 2009, when it won by 24, 86-62, in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals in Tampa, Fla.
• Alabama’s last loss by 20-plus to an SEC team was a 21-point decision, 84-63, at Auburn nearly five years ago, on Feb. 2, 2019, the year before head coach Nate Oats’ arrival.
• The only other team to defeat Alabama by 20-plus in Oats’ five seasons was Oklahoma in a 24-point result, 93-69, on Jan. 28, 2023.
• The last time Alabama had 22 turnovers was in a quadruple-overtime game against top-ranked North Carolina in Nov. 27, 2022, in Portland, Ore., while the last time it hit that mark in regulation was on Feb. 12, 2022, when it posted 24 at home against Arkansas.
• This is just the first time the Crimson Tide committed 20-plus turnovers and had a turnover margin of -15 or worse, with the other instance also at Tennessee in an overtime affair on Feb. 21, 2007, when it recorded 26 and forced just 10.
• The only team to limit Alabama to a lower 3-point percentage this season was Creighton on Dec. 16, 2023, when the Crimson Tide went 4-of-22 (18.2 percent).
• The is the first time Tennessee has recorded 85-plus points in three straight games, with all in SEC play, since doing so nearly 46 years ago, on Feb. 4, 6 and 11, 1978.
• The last time the Volunteers scored 85-plus points five times in a six-game span was over 17 years ago, as it last happened from Dec. 16, 2006, to Jan. 7, 2007, per Elias Sports Bureau.
• The only other times in the last 47 seasons (1977-2024) Tennessee had multiple three-game spans with 85-plus points in a single campaign were in 2007-08 and in 1990-91.
• Tennessee improved to 14-1 on non-Wednesdays this season, with the lone setback a four-point defeat against then-second-ranked Purdue during the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21, 2023, in Honolulu.
• At least one Volunteer has scored 20-plus points in eight of the past 10 games, with a total of 10 such performances in that stretch.
• The 19 first-half made field goals for Tennessee matched its second-half tally at North Carolina on Nov. 29, 2023, for its most in a session this season.
• Sears’ seven turnovers surpassed his prior season high of six set Jan. 6, 2024, at Vanderbilt, as well as matched the second-most of his career on Jan. 21, 2022, during his time at Ohio, with an eight-turnover tally on Dec. 4, 2021, versus St. Francis (PA), also while with the Bobcats, his only higher ledger.
• Three Tennessee players—Knecht (17), Gainey (13) and Aidoo (10)—scored double-digit points in the first half, while no Crimson Tide player had greater than seven.
• Vescovi tied Chris Lofton (2004-08) and Allan Houston (1989-93) for the most starts in program history with 128.
• Vescovi also became the fourth individual to play 4,000 minutes in a Tennessee uniform, joining Houston, C.J. Watson (2002-06) and Tony White (1983-87).
• Additionally, with two made 3-pointers, Vescovi passed Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins (2009-12) for ninth on the SEC’s all-time leaderboard, now owning 307 makes.
• Zeigler has 25 steals over the last nine games, becoming just the second Volunteer in Barnes’ nine-year tenure to achieve that feat, alongside Kennedy Chandler, who had 26 from Nov. 26, 2021, to Jan. 8, 2022.
• With 19 points, the third-most of his career, in each of the last two games, Aidoo has now scored 15-plus in back-to-back contests for the first time as a collegian.
• From the second half of the game at Mississippi State (Jan. 10, 2024) through the first half Saturday, Knecht scored 16-plus points in six consecutive halves with a total of 118 points in those 120 minutes.
• Over at least the last 20 seasons (2004-24), Knecht is the only Tennessee player to reach 25 points in four consecutive contests.
• Knecht is just the fifth SEC player in the last 14 seasons (2010-24) to score 25-plus points in four straight outings, joining LSU’s Cameron Thomas (Dec. 26, 2020-Jan. 6, 2021), Arkansas’ Mason Jones (Feb. 26-March 7, 2020), Georgia’s J.J. Frazier (Feb. 18-March 1, 2017) and Auburn’s Chris Denson (Feb. 5-Feb. 15, 2014).
• Knecht is the first Volunteer with 20-plus points in four straight games since Kevin Punter Jr., logged 20-plus in seven consecutive outings from Nov. 11-Dec. 19, 2015, during the first two months of games in Barnes’ tenure at Tennessee.
• Prior to Knecht, the last SEC player with 20-plus points in four consecutive affairs was Vanderbilt’s Liam Robbins, who did so from Feb. 11-Feb. 22, 2023.
• Over the last 15 seasons, Knecht is one of just two SEC players to score at least 128 points in a four-game stretch, joining Arkansas’ Mason Jones, who had 129 from Feb. 26-March 7, 2020.
• The last Power Six players to record 128 points in a four-game span in a single season were Jones in aforementioned stretch and Marquette’s Markus Howard, who had 128 in that same date range.
• Knecht is the only Division I player this season to have a four-game span in which he reached 128 points, with Liberty’s Darius McGhee (once) and Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis (eight times), the second-leading scorer in DI history, the only players to do so last season.
and is the first to do so since Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis, the second-leading scorer in DI history, and Liberty’s Darius McGhee had nearly concurrent streaks, with the former doing so Feb. 11-Feb. 23, 2023, and the former Feb. 11-Feb. 22, 2023.
• Knecht came just five points shy of being the first Volunteer with back-to-back-to-back 30-point performances since Bernard King from Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 1974, in the first three games of his freshman year.
• The last time an SEC player had back-to-back outings with eight-plus made free throws and no misses in league play was Feb. 26 and March 2, 2022, when LSU’s Tari Eason did so.
• The last Tennessee player, before Knecht, to make at least eight free throws in back-to-back games without a miss was Trae Golden nearly 12 years ago, as he did so on Feb. 29 and March 3, 2012, with that the lone other occurrence in at least the last 19 years (2005-24).
• Before Knecht, the last time an SEC player attempted 20-plus field goals in three straight outings was Jan. 23-Jan. 30, 2021, when LSU’s Cameron Thomas did so.
• Knecht became the first Tennessee player in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24) to record 20-plus field-goal attempts in three consecutive contests.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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