Courtesy / UT Athletics


Courtesy / UT Sports

Game Recap: Men’s Basketball | February 07, 2024

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee men’s basketball team posted its second straight wire-to-wire triumph with an 88-68 decision Wednesday night against LSU.

Fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht paced all scorers with 27 points for sixth-ranked Tennessee (17-5, 7-2 SEC), which led by as many as 26 points at a sold-out Food City Center.

The Volunteers immediately seized control by scoring the first 13 points of the night in just 2:44, on the way to taking a 15-1 advantage after three-and-a-half minutes. Tennessee made its first five field goals, including three from 3-point range, and its first two free throws, while LSU (12-10, 4-5 SEC) missed its opening seven tries from the floor.

The Tigers trimmed the deficit to six, 21-15, with 11:21 to go and trailed by just eight with under eight-and-a-half minutes left in the frame, but the Volunteers quickly regained command. They went on an 18-5 run in just 5:05 to go up by 21 points, 44-23, with 3:20 to go in the frame. At that juncture, the home team was 8-of-11 on 3-pointers, including a perfect 3-of-3 clip from junior guard Zakai Zeigler.

LSU scored four of the next six points, but Tennessee junior guard Jahmai Mashack notched the last four points of the frame to make it a 23-point margin, 50-27, at the intermission. The total tied the most before the break this season for the Volunteers, who shot 18-of-31 (58.1 percent) overall and 9-of-14 (64.3 percent) from long range. They also had an 8-2 edge in forced turnovers and a 14-2 tally in points off those giveaways.

A 3-pointer by fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James just 70 seconds into the second session upped Tennessee’s advantage to a game-best 26, 53-27, and pushed the long-range mark to 10-of-15.

The Tigers eventually used a 13-0 run, featuring four consecutive 3-pointers, in just 2:14 to make it a 10-point affair, 70-60, with 6:42 to go. The surge extended to 17-2 over 4:17 to get the lead down to single digits, 72-64, with 4:39 left. Knecht answered with a three-point play 27 seconds later to push the advantage back to 11 after which LSU graduate student forward converted a layup at the other end to slice the margin back to single digits.

The advantage sat at nine with under three-and-a-half minutes to go, but Tennessee closed the contest on a 13-2 run over the final 3:24, including scoring the final seven points in the last 93 seconds, to get the final margin all the way back to 20.

In addition to scoring 27 points—his seventh time with 25-plus in the last eight contests—Knecht amassed a team-leading seven rebounds, a career-best six assists, a co-career-high three blocks and two steals. The Thornton Colo., native, who became the first Power Six player with that stat line since LSU’s Ben Simmons on Dec. 2, 2015, shot 9-of-19 from the floor, 2-of-5 beyond the arc and 7-of-9 at the stripe.

Junior guard Jordan Gainey scored a season-high 18 points, finishing 6-of-9 from the field, 3-of-6 on 3-pointers and a perfect 3-of-3 at the line. His six made field goals tied a season high, as did his three assists and three steals.

Zeigler concluded the evening with 17 points, a game-best nine assists and a career-high-tying five steals, the latter the top mark by a Volunteer in 2023-24. The Long Island, N.Y., native recorded a near identical shooting mark to Gainey, going 6-of-9 overall, 3-of-6 on 3-from long range and hitting both his free throws. Junior forward Jonas Aidoo added 10 points and a co-game-leading three blocks.

Baker led the Tigers with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting and he pulled down eight rebounds. Senior forward Derek Fountain had 11 points on a 4-of-6 clip and grabbed seven rebounds, while fifth-year guard Trae Hannibal logged eight points and a game-leading 11 rebounds.

The Volunteers limited graduate student guard Jordan Wright, the Tigers’ co-leading scorer entering the night, to just nine points on 3-of-16 shooting, including a 1-of-7 mark from beyond the arc.

Tennessee concluded the contest with a 31-of-56 (55.4 percent) ledger from the field and an 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) tally on 3-pointers, good for its second-best and best clips of the season, respectively. It amassed a 23-7 edge in assists and a 13-5 margin in steals, the latter of which led to a 25-7 figure in points off turnovers. The Tigers

Up next for the Volunteers is a trip to Bryan-College Station, Texas, for the first of two matchups with Texas A&M in a 15-day stretch, with action slated for 8 p.m. ET at, live on ESPN from Reed Arena.

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 796 victories in his career, nine behind Rick Byrd for No. 14 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).
• Tennessee has now won three straight games over LSU, all by 14-plus points, after dropping each of the prior four matchups.
• The Volunteers are now 69-21 (.767) across 90 outings as an AP top-10 team in Barnes’ nine-year tenure, all in the past seven seasons.
• The sellout marked Tennessee’s fourth of the season, with all four remaining home contests also sold out for eight confirmed capacity—or above—crowds this season, three more than the prior venue record.
• Over the last two contests, the Volunteers have led for 79:19 and have not trailed for even one second.
• This is the second time in a six-game span Tennessee earned back-to-back wire-to-wire wins, as it also did so Jan. 16 and Jan. 20 against Florida and Alabama, respectively.
• Tennessee has scored the first eight points of the game, all in the opening two minutes, in each of its last two outings.
• The Volunteers’ 25 points off turnovers set a new season best, eclipsing the 24 they recorded on Jan. 10 at Mississippi State, while their plus-18 margin was their second-best of the year, trailing only the plus-19 mark (23-4) versus Alabama on Jan. 20.
• The 55.4 percent field-goal clip for the Volunteers was their second-best of the season, behind only their 55.6 percent (35-of-63) ledger at North Carolina on Nov. 29, 2023.
• Tennessee’s 45.8 3-point percentage surpassed its 44.4 percent (12-of-27) clip at Wisconsin on Nov. 10, 2023, for its best mark of 2023-24.
• The Volunteers’ 50 first-half points matched their most before the break this season, equaling the total on Jan. 20 versus Alabama.
• Tennessee has now posted 50-plus points in a half on seven occasions in 2023-24—including five times in just nine SEC contests—good for its most in a season since logging nine in 2018-19 and matchings its combined total from the last two years (2021-23).
• The last time Tennessee made nine 3-pointers in a half was Feb. 11, 2023, when it went 9-of-18 after the break versus Missouri.
• Following their 10-of-15 start from 3-point range, the Volunteers missed their next eight shots beyond the arc before Gainey concluded the scoring with a 3-pointer with 22 seconds to go.
• LSU held a 40-21 rebounding advantage through 37 minutes, but Tennessee grabbed the final five boards of the night to close out the win.
• At least one Volunteer has scored 20-plus points in 12 of the past 14 games, with a total of 15 such performances in that stretch.
• The prior game this season in which Gainey logged six made field goals was against Wofford on Nov. 14, 2023, in his third outing as a Volunteer, with his 16 points in that contest his previous top mark of the year.
• Aidoo (plus-31) and Zeigler (plus-26) both recorded their best plus/minus marks of the season, the former of which matched James’ ledger on Nov. 6, 2023, in the season opener against Tennessee Tech for the best figure by a Volunteer in 2023-24.
• Zeigler’s five steals set a season best for any Tennessee player and matched the career high he has registered on three prior occasions: Dec. 4, 2022, versus Alcorn State; Feb. 9, 2022, at Mississippi State ; and Jan. 5, 2022, against Ole Miss.
• The last Volunteer to notch five steals in a game was Santiago Vescovi, who did so over a year ago, on Jan. 25, 2023, against Georgia.
• Zeigler is just the second SEC player in the last three seasons (2021-24) to log 22 assists in a two-game span, joining Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler who did so on Nov. 9, 2021 (10 versus Duke in New York City) and Nov. 12, 2021 (12 against Robert Morris).
• The only other SEC player in the last six seasons (2018-24) with 22 assists in a two-game span of conference play was Auburn’s Sharife Cooper, who had 23 between Feb. 2, 2021 (nine against Georgia) and Feb. 6, 2021 (14 versus Ole Miss in an overtime game), while the last two do so in consecutive regulation league games was Auburn’s Jared Harper on Feb. 3, 2018 (14 against Vanderbilt) and Feb. 7, 2018 (eight versus Texas A&M).
• Of Knecht’s career-best six assists, five came in the first 12 minutes to already eclipse his high of four in a full game this season, a mark he set on Jan. 2 versus Norfolk State.
• The prior career-high five-assist performances for Knecht as a collegian both came during his tenure at Northern Colorado, as he registered that figure on both Dec. 31, 2022, at Idaho State and on Nov. 23, 2021, at San Jose State.
• Knecht’s three blocks tied the career high he set just three games and 11 days ago on Jan. 27 at Vanderbilt.
• Knecht, who paced Tennessee in scoring for the 14th time in 2023-24, has now scored 20-plus points in 10 of his 22 appearances as a Volunteer, including his eighth time with 25-plus points, seven of which have come in the past eight contests.
• The last SEC player to compile at least seven 25-point performances in an eight-game span was South Carolina’s Devan Downey, who had eight in a row almost exactly 14 years ago, from Jan. 9-Feb. 6, 2010.
• Before Knecht, the last Power Six player to log 25-plus points seven times in an eight-game stretch was Marquette’s Markus Howard, who had multiple concurrent stretches from Dec. 17, 2019, to Feb. 1, 2020.
• Howard, during that same stretch, is also the last Power Six player to score 234-plus points in an eight-game span, while the only other ones to do so in the past decade (2014-24) are Howard himself (Dec. 8, 2018-Jan. 12, 2019), Oklahoma’s Trae Young (multiple times in 2017-18) and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (multiple times in 2015-16).
• Knecht has 81 made field goals in the past eight games, becoming just the third Power Six player in the last decade (2014-24) to achieve that feat, alongside a pair of consensus national player of the year honorees: Iowa’s Luka Garza (two concurrent stretches in nine games from Nov. 25-Dec. 25, 2020, and two concurrent stretches from Feb. 2-March 3, 2020) and Duke’s Zion Williams (Jan. 8-Feb. 2, 2019.
• Knecht is just the second Volunteer in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24) to record a performance with even 25 points, five rebounds, five assists and three blocks, joining Armani Moore, who did so on Nov. 24, 2015, versus Army West Point.
• Knecht is the first Power Six player with 27 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two assists since LSU’s Ben Simmons on Dec. 2, 2015, against Longwood, with that the lone other occurrence in the past 15 seasons (2009-24).
• The last Power Six player to post the above stat line in a conference game was Maryland’s Greivis Vazquez on Feb. 21, 2009, in an overtime game against North Carolina, while no one has done so in a regulation outing in at least the last 19 seasons (2005-24).
• The last Division I player to post the aforementioned stat line was Belmont’s Nick Muszynski on Feb. 5, 2022, in an overtime affair at Tennessee Tech, while the last to do so in regulation was Coppin State’s Anthony Tarke on Dec. 10, 2020, versus UNC Greensboro.
• Knecht has now scored double-digit points in both halves of a game on seven occasions this year, including in five of the past seven contests.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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