Tennessee hangs on to edge Texas, move on to Sweet 16

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 24 Mar, 2024 at 06:42 AM

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE -- Tennessee didn't have good shooting in the NCAA Tournament's second round, but the Volunteers had enough in other areas to keep their season alive.

Dalton Knecht churned out 18 points to help Tennessee coach Rick Barnes defeat Texas, his former team, 62-58 in the Midwest Region on Saturday night.

"We just kept talking about we're going to put it on our defense," Barnes said.

Jonas Aidoo added 11 points, and Tobe Awaka had 10 off the bench for the cold-shooting Volunteers, who checked in at 33.8 percent. Those offensive contributions helped make up for guard Zakai Zeigler's 2-for-12 shooting.

Knecht, who provided seven of his team's final 15 points, clinched the outcome by sinking both ends of a 1-and-1 with 3.8 seconds to play.

"The whole team had trust in me," said Knecht, who added nine rebounds. "Despite my shooting performance today, they had trust in me to go take those shots, and I can't thank my teammates and coaching staff enough."

Second-seeded Tennessee (26-8) will meet third-seeded Creighton in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Detroit. Creighton defeated No. 11 Oregon 86-73 in double-overtime later Saturday.

Texas (21-13), playing under former Barnes assistant Rodney Terry, couldn't complete the comeback and failed to reach the 60-point mark in both of its NCAA Tournament games.

Reserve Chendall Weaver and Tyrese Hunter both had 13 points, Dylan Disu posted 12 points, and Max Abmas supplied 10 points and eight rebounds for the Longhorns, who shot 36.4 percent with 17 turnovers.

"As long as you continue to get stops, eventually we'd make enough shots to get back in the game," Disu said. "That's what we did, and unfortunately, they just didn't fall for us down the stretch to finish it."

Tennessee shot 3-for-25 on treys.

"These are the kinds of games in the tournament you get bounced when you shoot as poorly as we did, but we found a way with our defense," Barnes said. "All we kept talking about during timeouts was keep taking our shots. We've got to get it done on the defensive end."

Tennessee led 40-28 with 12 minutes left before the Longhorns finally got going. But they put together a little offensive burst and climbed to within 41-37.

But the Volunteers seemed to have steadied themselves when Knecht's 3-pointer lead pushed the edge to 50-42.

Texas came roaring back, with Disu hitting a 3-pointer and Hunter a layup off the fast break on back-to-back possessions, suddenly putting more game pressure on the Volunteers.

The Longhorns had a chance to pull even or go ahead in the final minutes, but Disu missed a shot and Hunter couldn't convert on a putback.

Jonas Aido went 1-for-2 at the free throw line before Texas responded with a drive from Max Abmas.

It was Aido again, this time converting both ends of a 1-and-1 with 24.3 seconds left. Abmas tried a forced 3-pointer at the other end and was well off the mark.

The Volunteers looked in good shape after two free throws from Knecht, but Hunter's 3-pointer made it interesting.

Terry said the Longhorns expected to be tested by a stellar defense.

"Coach (Barnes) gets guys to play really hard and really tough, and that's a talent, and that's coaching," Terry said. "If you can get your guys to buy into playing really hard -- defense, rebounding, being physical -- that's coaching. Coach has done it for a long time at a very high level."

The battle between future Southeastern Conference combatants was mostly defined by gritty play, with the smooth stretches few and far between.

"Exactly the way we described the game to our players getting ready for this game," Barnes said.

--Bob Sutton, Field Level Media