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MENS BASKETBALL


Tennessee 83, Saint Peter's 49

Tennessee 83, Saint Peter's 49

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Dalton Knecht scored 23 points and Tennessee shot 64% in the first half to build a huge lead before beating Saint Peter’s 83-49 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Jonas Aidoo added 13 of his 15 points by halftime for the Midwest Region’s No. 2 seed, which quickly erased any chance of another improbable March Madness run for the 15th-seeded Peacocks. Tennessee (25-8) ran out to a double-digit lead in the first eight minutes, used a 9-0 burst to push the margin past 20, then increased that margin to 29 shortly before halftime.

There was no sign of the hiccups from multiple recent March stumbles, setting up a reunion for coach Rick Barnes and his former Texas program in the second round.

The Volunteers came in ranked third in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency by allowing 91.2 points per 100 possessions. And they were smothering, both in contesting shots early and using their strong frames to assert complete ownership of the glass (47-21).

Knecht, voted a first-team All-American by The Associated Press earlier this week, buried a 3-pointer on a catch-and-fire inbounds pass just 20 seconds in, finishing with eight rebounds and four 3s.

The 6-foot-11 Aidoo also had a fast start, following Knecht’s 3 with a pair of quick dunks. He added a third slam moments later, putting a little extra swing and kick while hanging on the rim after being futilely fouled from behind by Mouhamed Sow — a play that had Saint Peter’s coach Bashir Mason say to Sow from the sideline simply: “Why?”

There was little the Peacocks (19-14) could do in response, between the Vols repeatedly getting point-blank or clean looks while Saint Peter’s struggled to knock down much of anything.

Latrell Reid scored 17 for Saint Peter’s, which became a March Madness legend two years ago by becoming the only No. 15 regional seed to reach a regional final. The hope was to re-create a taste of that magic against the Volunteers despite a nearly complete overhaul of roster and coaching staff, but the Peacocks missed 17 of their first 20 shots to watch this one get away quickly.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Peter’s: The Peacocks busted brackets during that 2022 run, with wins against Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue. They weren’t supposed to be back in March Madness this year after being picked 10th in the 11-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, yet they stunned regular-season champion Quinnipiac in the MAAC Tournament semifinals before beating Fairfield to win the title and secure only their fifth NCAA bid. But there would be no Cinderella story this time around, with Saint Peter’s shooting 29.1% overall and 4 of 24 from 3-point range.

Tennessee: The Volunteers’ postseason history under Barnes had been spotty, with five NCAA losses to lower seeds in as many seasons. Four of those came to teams sitting at least five seed lines lower than Tennessee, which has reached the second weekend just twice despite carrying at least a No. 5 seed each time. There was no worries with this one, as the Vols handling business with ruthless efficiency expected in a 2-vs-15 matchup.


March 21, 2024





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