Knecht leads Vols’ comeback win at Georgia

Published 10:49 am Monday, January 15, 2024

NEWS RELEASE

After watching a 14-point lead turn into an 11-point deficit with under six-and-a-half minutes left, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team came all the way back to defeat Georgia, 85-79, Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum.

Fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht poured in a game-high 36 points, the second-most of his career, for fifth-ranked Tennessee (12-4, 2-1 SEC) in a thrilling victory to snap the Bulldogs’ 10-game winning streaks both overall and at home.

The Volunteers used an 8-0, 41-second surge to grab an early 14-6 lead after just five minutes, with Knecht notching nine of the team’s points. They upped the advantage to 11, 28-17, with 9:54 on the clock after an 8-of-10 shooting stretch that included five straight makes.

Tennessee extended its margin to a game-best 14, 42-28, with 4:01 to go, but Georgia (12-4, 2-1 SEC) answered with nine straight points in 2:58 to make it a five-point affair with 49 seconds left before the intermission. Neither team scored after that and the score sat at 42-37 through 20 minutes.

The Volunteers, following a 16-of-28 (57.1 percent) start, missed their final seven shots of the half and did not score in the last four minutes of the frame. Their stingy defense, though, helped them maintain the two-possession lead at the break, as Georgia was just 10-of-35 (28.6 percent) in the first half.

Georgia hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the opening 34 seconds of the second half to go ahead, 43-42, and make it a 15-0 run over 3:32. After Tennessee regained a four-point lead, the Bulldogs scored eight consecutive points in 41 seconds to take a 53-49 lead with 16:06 remaining. They upped their cushion as high as 11, 69-58, with 8:29 to go.

Buoyed by six straight made field goals after making just five of its prior 23, Tennessee trimmed the deficit to two, 78-76, with 3:28 on the ticker. Knecht then tied the score at 78 on a pair of free throws with 2:33 to play, making it an 8-0 surge in 2:17 and giving him 31 points on the day.

The Thornton, Colo., native then put Tennessee ahead, 81-79, on a 3-pointer with 1:56 left. He then added two more free throws with 40 ticks left to stretch the advantage to four. After a defensive stop, junior guard Zakai Zeigler then hit two free throws of his own to put Tennessee ahead by six, with those shots proving to be the final points of the affair.

In total, the Volunteers ended the game on a 21-4 run in the last 6:08 to flip an 11-point deficit into a six-point victory. They outscored the home team by a 15-1 margin in the final five minutes, including scoring the only seven points in the closing two minutes.

Knecht registered his three-dozen points, one shy of his career-best mark, on 12-of-20 shooting overall, including a 5-of-8 clip from deep, along with a 7-of-9 tally at the line. He scored 20 points in the second half alone, his second straight game reaching that number after the intermission.

Zeigler totaled 18 points, a game-best five assists and a co-game-high two steals in the win. Junior forward Jonas Aidoo recorded 10 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and a co-career-best five blocks in a career-high 35 minutes of action. It marked his fifth double-double as a collegian, including his fourth of 2023-24, and gave him the most rebounds in a game by a Volunteer since January 2019.

Senior guard Jabri Abdur-Rahim paced the Bulldogs with 21 points, as he went 5-of-9 beyond the arc and made all six of his free throws. Graduate student guard Noah Thomasson compiled 14 points, but Tennessee held him to 5-of-15 shooting. Freshman guard Silas Demary Jr., and junior guard R.J. Melendez each chipped in 13 points for Georgia.

Tennessee limited the home team to 23-of-69 (33.3 percent) shooting, while amassing a 29-of-61 (47.5 percent) ledger of its own. The Bulldogs shot 14-of-33 (42.4 percent) from deep, but dominant interior defense limited them to just a 9-of-36 (25.0 percent) clip inside the arc. The victors also doubled up Georgia in paint points with a commanding 36-18 edge.

The Volunteers now return home to Knoxville, Tenn., where they play two games at Food City Center next week, the first of which is Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Florida, live on ESPN.

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.

Notebook

• Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes now owns 791 victories in his career, 11 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).

• Tennessee now has 100 victories over Georgia, as it moved to 100-62 in the all-time series, which dates back to Jan. 17, 1913.

• Georgia and Vanderbilt (129) are the two schools the Volunteers have triple-digit wins against in program history.

• Tennessee is now 6-1 in its last seven matchups versus Georgia, winning all six times it was ranked and losing the lone time it was not, after going 2-9 in the prior 11 meetings.

• Additionally, Tennessee has now won back-to-back road games against the Bulldogs for the first time since Feb. 16, 2008, and Jan. 10, 2009, which was also the last time it played consecutive road games at Stegeman Coliseum as a ranked team.

• The Volunteers moved to 28-8 (.778) while ranked in the AP top five during Barnes’ tenure, across four different seasons.

• In the last eight days, Tennessee has snapped the co-longest winning streak in Ole Miss history (13) and the fourth-longest winning streak in Georgia history (10).

• The last time the Volunteers overcame a double-digit deficit to win was Dec. 28, 2022, at Ole Miss when they trailed by 10, 27-17, in the first half and earned a four-point triumph, 63-59.

• The Volunteers snapped a streak of 15 straight setbacks when trailing with 10 minutes left in regulation, a 13-game skid when trailing with five minutes left in regulation and a 12-game losing streak when behind with two minutes left in regulation.

• Tennessee committed 10 turnovers in the first half, while Georgia had just two giveaways in the opening 20 minutes.