Vols Defeat Texas, 62-58, to Reach Second Straight Sweet 16
Courtesy / UT Athletics

Vols Defeat Texas, 62-58, to Reach Second Straight Sweet 16

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The University of Tennessee men’s basketball team clinched its second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, its second time doing so in program history, with a 62-58 victory Saturday night over seventh-seeded Texas at Spectrum Center,

Fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht, who iced the game with four late free throws, scored a game-high 18 points for sixth-ranked, second-seeded Tennessee (26-8, 14-4 SEC), which led for over 36 minutes and forced 17 turnovers in a commanding defensive performance.

In the first 7:40, the Volunteers held Texas (21-13, 9-9 B12) to 1-of-6 shooting and forced six turnovers, including not allowing a point for 4:23, on the way to taking an 8-4 edge. Soon thereafter, Tennessee went on a 6-0 run in 1:27 to go ahead by eight with 9:39 on the clock, but the Longhorns answered with a 9-2 burst in 2:40 to make it 18-17 at the 6:38 mark.

Tennessee answered back with 10 straight points in 4:54 to go ahead by 11, 28-17, with 1:28 to go in the frame. A basket by Texas 25 seconds later ended a 5:19 scoreless drought and capped the first-half scoring, as the Volunteers entered the break up by nine, 29-20.

A 9-2 advantage in points off turnovers and a 7-of-8 (87.5 percent) free-throw mark helped Tennessee overcome a 10-of-35 (28.6 percent) field-goal ledger, including a 1-of-13 (7.7 percent) tally from 3-point range that featured 11 misses to open the contest. However, it also limited the Longhorns to an 8-of-26 (30.8 percent) ledger from the floor and a 2-of-9 (22.2 percent) figure from deep.

The Volunteers pushed their lead to a game-best 12 points, 40-28, on a third-chance basket with 12:59 remaining. Texas countered with a 14-5 spurt to get back within one possession, 45-42, with 7:15 to go. Tennessee then tallied eight of the next 10 points, including hitting back-to-back 3-pointers after going 1-of-21 through 34-plus minutes, to make it 53-44 with 4:23 left.

Texas again clawed back, this time using a 9-2 run in 2:18 to get the margin down to two, 55-53, with 1:53 on the timer. After stops on each end, junior forward Jonas Aidoo split a pair of free throws with 48.8 seconds to up the edge to three, but the Longhorns scored 14 ticks later to trim the deficit to one, 56-55.

Aidoo knocked down two free throws with 24.3 seconds to play and then, after a Tennessee stop, Knecht hit two with 8.8 on the clock, extending the cushion to five, 60-55. Texas junior guard Tyrese Hunter drilled a 3-pointer with 4.2 ticks to go, but Knecht made two more free throws—each of the Volunteers’ six makes in the closing 25 seconds were one-and-ones—with 3.8 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

In addition to pacing all players in scoring, Knecht also co-led the game in rebounding, as he pulled down nine boards. The Thornton, Colo., native, who moved into the top three on Tennessee’s single-season scoring list, shot 7-of-8 at the line in the triumph.

Aidoo scored 11 points and blocked two shots, making him the program’s career leader in blocks in the NCAA Tournament with 11. Sophomore forward Tobe Awaka battled foul trouble, but still amassed 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in just 11 minutes.

Fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James recorded nine points and matched Knecht with nine rebounds. Junior guard Zakai Zeigler stuffed the stat sheet with six points, a game-high seven assists and three steals while playing all 40 minutes. Fifth-year guard Santiago Vescovi also registered three steals, breaking the schools’ career record in the process.

Hunter and sophomore guard Chendall Weaver scored 13 points apiece for Texas, while graduate student forward Dylas Disu had 12 and graduate student guard Max Abmas notched 10. The Volunteers held Disu and Abmas to 4-of-18 and 3-of-10 shooting, respectively.

Although Tennessee finished 22-of-65 (33.8 percent) from the floor and 3-of-12 (12.0 percent) beyond the arc, it went 15-of-18 (83.3 percent) on free throws and posted a 36-20 edge in paint points. The victors also tripled up Texas in points off turnovers, 15-5, while holding the Longhorns to a 20-of-55 (36.4 percent) clip from the floor.

Tennessee became the second team ever to win an NCAA Tournament game while shooting under 34.0 percent from the floor and under 12.5 percent from 3-point range.

The Volunteers will make the 10th regional final appearance in program history Friday against No. 11-ranked, third-seeded Creighton at a to-be-determined time Friday in Detroit.

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 805 victories in his career, matching Rick Byrd for No. 14 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).
• Tennessee improved to 5-4 all-time versus Texas, including 1-3 at neutral sites and 2-1 over the last three years, with this the first postseason meeting between the two sides.
• Barnes, who served as the Longhorns’ head coach for 17 seasons (1998-2015), is 4-3 in Tennessee/Texas matchups, as he went 2-2 with the Longhorns and is now 2-1 with the Volunteers.
• This is the seventh time Tennessee has won at least 26 games in a single season, including the fourth in the last seven seasons under Barnes.
• Tennessee’s 26 wins this year match the fifth-highest single-season win total in program history, tying the marks in both 2017-18 and 1999-2000.
• The Volunteers are now 27-26 all-time in their 27 NCAA Tournament trips, including 8-10 in their second games, 9-8 in the first round, 8-5 under Barnes, 7-3 as a No. 2 seed, 2-2 versus No. 7 seeds, 11-20 against single-digit seeds, 22-11 versus lower seeds, 23-24 in regulation, 8-7 in North Carolina and 4-4 in Charlotte.
• Barnes’ 8-5 record at Tennessee ties him with Bruce Pearl (8-6) for the most NCAA Tournament wins in program history.
• After losing each of the first four NCAA Tournament contests in program history—one was a consolation affair—this is the first time Tennessee has ever owned an all-time winning record.
• This is the second time the Volunteers have reached the Sweet 16 in back-to-back years, joining the 2006-07 and 2007-08 campaigns.
• Tennessee is in the Sweet 16 for the 10th time ever; that includes doing so in 23-team tournament in 1967 in which it received a bye to the Round of 16 and a 48-team tournament in 1981 in which it received a bye to the Round of 32.
• In seven of its last 12 NCAA Tournament trips—all in the last 18 years, since 2007—Tennessee had earned a Sweet 16 trip after doing so just thrice in its first 14 appearances (one of which it started in the Round of 16).
• The Volunteers now own a 78-24 (.765) record in 102 games as an AP top-10 team under Barnes’ direction.
• The only other team to win an NCAA Tournament game while shooting under 34.0 percent from the floor and under 12.5 percent from 3-point range was fourth-seeded Clemson, also led by Barnes in his third season there, when it went 18-of-57 (31.6 percent) from the field and 1-of-11 (9.1 percent) beyond the arc against fifth-seeded Tulsa on March 16, 1997.
• Saturday marked the fifth time this season, including the second in a row, the Volunteers held their opponent to 20 or fewer first-half points.
• Tennessee notched a 16-6 advantage in paint points in the opening half and had a 9-3 margin in offensive rebounds.
• Awaka, James and Vescovi all committed three fouls in the first 25 minutes of the game.
• Texas entered the bonus with 10:05 left in the contest—Awaka picked up his fourth foul at that time—while it then had just two personal fouls of its own.
• Awaka had eight points and four rebounds in the first half, shooting 3-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 at the line, but played just 5:52, as he recorded three fouls.
• Saturday marked the seventh time Awaka has scored in double figures as a collegian, including the fifth this season.
• Zeigler seven assists to put him at 204 in 2023-24, making him the fourth Tennessee player to reach 200 in a single campaign, alongside Rodney Woods (227 in 1974-75), Johnny Darden (221 in in 1976-77) and Jordan Bone (215 in 2018-19).
• Zeigler’sthree steals pushed his 2023-24 total to 62, moving him from co-No. 14 all the way to eighth on the Volunteers’ single-season leaderboard.
• After blocking two shots Saturday, Aidoo is now Tennessee’s all-time NCAA Tournament record-holder, as he possesses 11 in his seven appearances, breaking a tie with Rashard Lee and Isiah Victor atop the program’s leaderboard.
• Aidoo’s two blocks also put him at 66 on the year, breaking a tie with Kyle Alexander (2018-19) for sole possession of third place on the school’s single-season list.
• James moved into a tie with Wayne Chism (2006-10) for third place on Tennessee’s appearances list with his 142nd outing, while Vescovi pushed his second-place tally to 148.
• Vescovi now owns 105 victories at Tennessee, breaking a tie with Quinn Cannington (2006-10) and Wayne Chism (2006-10), for sole possession of fourth place in program history, while James upped his third-place mark to 113.
• Knecht’s first point of the night, on a free throw with 6:57 left in the first half, made him the fourth Tennessee player—fifth occurrence—to compile 700 points in a single year, joining Allan Houston (806 in 1990-91 and 717 in 1991-92), Dale Ellis (724 in 1982-83) and Tony White (711 in 1986-87).
• Now owning 717 points in 2023-24, Knecht surpassed Tony White (1986-87) and tied Allan Houston (1991-92) to rise from fifth to co-third on Tennessee’s single-season scoring leaderboard.

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