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

March 23, 2024, Charlotte, NC, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers forward Jonas Aidoo (0) celebrates defeating the Texas Longhorns in the second round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE — Dalton Knecht churned out 18 points and that helped Tennessee coach Rick Barnes defeat his former team with a 62-58 survival against Texas in the Midwest Region’s second round Saturday night.

Jonas Aidoo added 11 points and Tobe Awaka had 10 points 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.

Second-seeded Tennessee (26-8) will meet either third-seeded Creighton or 11th-seeded Oregon, who were to meet later Saturday, in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Detroit.

Texas (21-13), 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 for the Longhorns, who shot 36.4 percent with 17 turnovers.

Tennessee led 40-28 with 12 minutes left before the Longhorns finally got going.

Twenty-eight minutes into the game, the Longhorns had only 28 points. 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 pushed the edge to 50-42.
Texas came roaring back, with Disu and Hunter scoring 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.

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

It was Aidoo 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.

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

–Bob Sutton, Field Level Media

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