UT snatched a win from the jaws of defeat, thanks in large part to a 36-point game from Dalton Knecht and a 10-point, 15-rebound, five-block game from Jonas Aidoo, as the Vols beat Georgia at home.
Tennessee’s offense was fueled by Knecht early in the game, with the former transfer hitting two 3s and an and-1 layup in the first five minutes of the contest. Both 3s came off Zakai Zeigler assists — the team’s assist rate is always something to watch for how well the offense is functioning.
The Vols slowed up after the 15-minute mark, turning the ball over three times in less than two minutes. A Santiago Vescovi 3 gave the Vols a 17-11 lead around the 12-minute mark.
Zeigler hit an and-1 layup, putting the offense at 6-12 from the field for the game. Barnes took him out and Freddie Dilione entered the game — something to watch as monitoring Zakai’s minutes coming off the ACL injury.
UGA responded with its own old-fashioned 3-point play right after Zeigler’s.
Dilione managed to get fouled on an attempted layup and hit both free throws, putting UT up 22-14 with 11-ish minutes until halftime.
Tobe Awaka scored his first points on an offensive rebound-putback, and then scored on two more layups — one on a baseline out-of-bounds play — making it 5 points on BLOB plays in the first 10 minutes of the game. 28-19 with 9:40 till half.
A Vescovi miss and a UGA 3 cut into the Vols’ lead, but UT responded with an easy layup on another BLOB play.
Knecht hit his third 3 of the game around the eight-minute mark, off a dribble-drive penetration pass from Vescovi. Back to an 11-point lead at 33-22 around the eight-minute mark.
Zeigler threw the ball out of bounds for UT’s seventh turnover in the first 14 minutes of the game, giving UGA nine points off giveaways while the Bulldogs hadn’t turned it over one yet in the first half.
A steal by Zeigler in the open floor put the Vols up 42-28 as the game went into the under-four minute media timeout. At this point, Zeigler had eight points, five assists but four of the team’s seven giveaways.
From the four-minute mark, UGA went on a 9-0 run and cut UT’s lead to 42-37 thanks to three Tennessee turnovers and zero points.
Georgia opened the second half with two-straight 3s to take a 43-42 lead. 15-0 run, and Rick Barnes called a time out.
The Vols responded with a Josiah-Jordan James layup and two Jonas Aidoo free throws, to take back a 46-43 lead with 18-ish minutes left in the game.
A small spurt of two UGA FTs, another Knecht 3, and a UGA 3 made it 49-48 Tennessee, but UT turned it over, again, and Triple-J got called for a flagrant foul on the next Dogs’ possession.
Two FTs and a UGA 3 later, UT found itself down 53-49, but a Knecht mid-range jumper cut it back to a two-point game.
Zeigler hit a floater, but Georgia responded with an easy layup to take the 55-53 lead. UGA hit two FTs on the following possession. 57-53 Georgia, with 13:42 left.
Another Vols’ turnover and UGA layup later, and its 59-53 Georgia with 12.5 minutes left in the game.
UGA’s Silas Demary blew past Vescovi and dunked over James to put UT down 61-54 with just under 12 minutes to play. UT turned it over on its next possession for the 13th time of the game. Demary hit a 3 — UGA had hit 5-8 from deep in the second half — and now had an eight-point lead. Another Georgia layup had the Vols down 10 points with 9:21 left.
Knecht hit a back-to-the basket hoop, UGA missed its next shot, and then Tennessee turns the ball over again. UGA turned it back over, Knecht had a layup but missed, and Georgia hit another 3. A five-point swing in 10-ish seconds.
Another Knecht bucket gave him 25 points for the game, and Georgia turned the ball over for just its third time of the game.
Zeigler hit a layup but missed the accompanying free throw, and UGA again answered with a 3-pointer.
At the 5:33 mark, the Vols got an offensive rebound and Vescovi hit a 3, which made it a 75-70 game. On the next Georgia possession, UT gave up an offensive rebound and Catholic graduate and Knoxville native Blue Cain hit his second 3 in just seven minutes of action. 78-72 with 4:40 remaining.
A shot-clock violation thanks to Aidoo’s fifth block of the game led to a Knecht layup on the other end. 78-74, Georgia, at the under-four media break.
Georgia turned it over, and Knecht hit Aidoo with a no-look pass for an easy dunk that cut UGA’s lead back to two points. Tennessee’s defense forced a UGA giveaway, and Knecht hit two FTs on the other end to tie up the game with 2:30 left. Vols on an 8-0 run.
Knecht hit a pull-up 3 to put UT up two, 81-79, with under two minutes in the game.
WHEN YOU NEED A BUCKET. pic.twitter.com/PTWLzfV8Gf— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) January 13, 2024
Knecht hit two FTs to give Tennessee an 83-79 lead, and Georgia missed a couple good looks on the other end. Zeigler hit two FTs to ice the game.
The Vols ended the game on a 15-1 run during the final five-ish minutes of the game.
Zeigler finished as UT’s third double-digit scorer with 18 point, five boards, five assists, two steals but six turnovers.