The game was closer than my headline indicates for much of the first half, but the Vols never trailed as Dalton Knecht and Jordan Gainey combined for 34 points, five 3s and just one turnover, while the defense held Wofford’s shooting to just below 38 percent in the 82-61 win.
Tennessee’s offense started quick, with two-straight 3s from Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi, but then went Antarctica-cold with a 3:15 scoring drought and an 0-5 streak from the field.
Luckily, the defense held Wafford to just three points by the under-16 media break at 15:48 remaining. By the time the game restarted, both teams had missed their previous five shots and were working on five minutes each without a bucket.
Vescovi broke the streak for the Vols with a pump-fake 3 and drove to the hoop for a layup, while Wofford had scored a bucket of its own. Jahmai took the ball straight to the rim for a layup to give the Vols a 10-5 lead with just fewer than 14 minutes remaining in the half.
Jordan Gainey got on the scoreboard with his first 3 of the game at the 12:44 mark, right after Wofford gathered its seventh offensive in the game’s first eight-ish minutes, which it converted into two points. Gainey hit his second 3 just a minute later, and a Dalton Knecht drive led the game into the under-12 break. Knecht hit both free throws.
Knecht picked up his second foul with 8:45 left in the half and went to the bench — unlikely to be seen against this half.
Wafford hit a 3 to cut the lead to 18-14, then another two to make it a two-point game on a 5-0 run.
Gainey broke another three-minute-plus scoring drought with a driving, left-handed layup, and then Mashack converted on another driving score at the rim. Tennessee led 22-18 with 6:22 left until the halftime break. At this point in the game, the Terriers led the battle on the boards 16-11 with nine of those rebounds coming on the offense in the glass. Unless things change, this would be the second-straight game that UT had trouble on the defensive glass.
Cam Carr was the first freshman to check into the game as he entered as Aidoo hit 1-2 from the FT line at the 6:32 mark.
The broadcast said that the Terriers went on a 10-5 run after Knecht left the game. Not ideal.
Zakai Zeigler put the Vols back up five at the under-four timeout with his first 3 of the game coming from the top of the arc and from about 25 feet from the hoop.
Gainey’s third 3 of the game splashed in from the far corner on an out-of-bounds play, and a few possessions later, it was Knecht who hit a driving layup at the hoop. Knecht left the game fairly quick — we all know Barnes doesn’t typically play guys in first halves once they’ve picked up the second foul.
Vescovi nailed his second 3 of the game when Wofford tried to go under the ball screen, which is always a bad idea for opposing teams. Tennessee by six with under a minute until half.
Inside the final 60 seconds, Wofford hit a 3 from the far corner, cutting it to a three-point lead before Vescovi missed on his patented pump-fake, side-step 3. Aidoo picked up TN’s sixth offensive rebound and hit the bank shot right before the buzzer went off taking the game to halftime. Vols up 36-31.
Gainey led the way for Tennessee in scoring with 11, but no other Vol scored in double figures.
HALFTIME LEADERS— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) November 15, 2023
Gainey - 11p / 3-6 3fg
Vescovi - 8p
Aidoo - 4p pic.twitter.com/H8Kd7xjLo5
The Terriers caught the Vols’ defense in rotation and hit a 3 on the first possession of the second period, which cut UT’s lead to just two points.
After Wofford’s 3, Jonas Aidoo hit a 15-foot jumper, then Knecht drove to the hoop for a layup and hit 3 in transition on subsequent possessions to make it a nine-point lead.
After a Terrier turnover, Knecht went to the line and hit 1-2, while the defense forced a missed shot on the other lead and Mashack collected an offensive rebound off a Knecht miss and converted both free-throw chances. 10-0 run Vols, with UT up 46-34.
At the 16:12 mark, Wofford hit a 3 and cut the lead back to nine for Tennessee. Vescovi turned the ball over at the 15:14 mark, taking the broadcast into the under-16 media timeout in the midst of a nearly three-minute period without a bucket. Vescovi’s giveaway was the Vols’ fifth turnover of the game and first of the second half.
The Terriers cut the lead to five, but an Awaka put back after a missed Gainey layup pushed the lead back to seven for Tennessee. A Knecht made jumper followed by a Vols’ steal led to two missed shots, an offensive rebound and zero points. Vols up nine, 51-42 with just under 12 minutes left.
Awaka hit both free throws out of the time out, and Tennessee’s defense forced an empty possession on the other end. Knecht went right to the hoop for his 10th second-half points with a left-handed layup on the near side of the hope.
The Vols gave up a layup on defense, but Awaka collected a missed shot, made the put back but missed the three-point-play free throw. Jordan Gainey got fouled and the Vols immediately went back to Awaka down low, where he was fouled again and made both shots from the charity stripe.
The Terriers hit another open 3 from the corner at the 8:59 mark, making it a 60-49 ball game in favor of the good guys. Gainey hit a 15-foot, pull-up jumper to make it 62-49 and then forced a turnover on the other end. This took the game into the under-eight break, with Gainey becoming the second Vol to score in double figures.
Santi made it a 66-49 game off an offensive rebound with his third 3 of the game, but the Terriers answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play on a layup and made free throw.
Knecht got fouled and made both FTs, gave up a layup but then scored off a SportsCenter Top-10, Santi-to- Aidoo, no-look, behind-the-back assist and slam.
Two James’ free throws put him in the 1,000 point club, and he followed that up with a drive to the hoop for two more points.
Knecht hit a 13-foot jumper making it 76-54 with just more than two minutes remaining. Young man has ice in his veins.
Cam Carr hit his second 3 of his UT career to get in the box score before Gainey hit his fourth 3 of the game. 82-60 Vols with 25 seconds left.
The Vols outscored the Terriers 46-30 in the second half. Knecht led the team with 18 points, again hitting just one of his four 3s, but he led three total UT players with at least 10 points as Gainey had 16 and Santi had 11.
Tennessee scored 19 points off 14 Wofford turnovers, while the Terriers managed to convert eight UT turnovers into just three points.
Several Vols nearly hit double-digits scoring: Aidoo had seven and tied for the team lead with seven boards, Mashack had seven and four rebounds, James had eight and seven rebounds and Awaka had nine points with six rebounds — four of which came on the offensive glass.
This is the last game before UT travels to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, which features five teams in the top-11 of the AP Poll. The Vols play the currently 2-0 Syracuse Orange in their first game on November 20th, and then — if they win — play the winner of No. 2 Purdue and No. 11 Gonzaga the next day. The No. 1-ranked Kansas Jayhawks are also in the bracket, along with No. 4 Marquette and the undefeated UCLA Bruins.