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Tennessee 82, Creighton 75

Tennessee 82, Creighton 75

DETROIT - Dalton Knecht had 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, and Tennessee moved within a victory of its first trip to the Final Four, beating Creighton 82-75 in a Midwest Region semifinal.

Zakai Zeigler added 18 points and six assists for the second-seeded Volunteers. When Tennessee lost last year in the regional semifinals for the second straight season, Knecht was at Northern Colorado and Zeigler was out with a torn knee ligament.

Coach Rick Barnes’ Vols (27-8) have matched the longest NCAA Tournament run in school history and hope to get farther than the 2012 team that lost by one point to Michigan State in the Elite Eight.

The third-seeded Bluejays (25-10) reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years and fell a win short of equaling their first regional final appearance from last year.

Baylor Scheierman, a third-team All-America wing, had 25 points and some of his teammates struggled against a long and athletic team that plays defense from the logo to the rim.

Steven Ashworth finished with 16 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 14 for the Bluejays, who had plenty of fight.

Tennessee went on a breathtaking 18-0 run early in the second half — taking a 55-39 lead — that forced Creighton coach Greg McDermott to call two timeouts because he didn’t want to wait for a TV stoppage to stem the tide.

Scheierman made a 3-pointer to end the drought and later had a three-point play during a 9-0 run that pulled the Bluejays within three points with 6:04 left.

Knecht made a pair of 3-pointers that restored six-point leads and Zeigler set up Tobe Awaka for a three-point play that put the Vols ahead 71-64 with 1:39 to go.

Tennessee survived the first weekend of the tournament, edging Texas by four points after opening with a rout of Saint Peter’s, with Knecht combining for 41 points in those games. The Bluejays advanced to the second weekend of the tournament with a rout of Akron and a double-overtime win over Oregon.

In the Sweet 16, Scheierman had 15 points in the first half and his second assist was a lob that Kalkbrenner slammed to put the Bluejays ahead 35-34.

Knecht was at his best during the pivotal burst early in the second half.

The 6-foot-6 wing, who transferred from Northern Colorado after playing at Northeastern Junior College, became the first former junior college player to earn All-America recognition since Larry Johnson in 1991.

Knecht had 10 points in a closely contested first half with eight lead changes, three ties and neither team going ahead by more than four points.

The Vols were pesky on defense, playing chest-to-chest 40 feet from the basket, and forced a team that averages 10-plus turnovers to lose possession four times in the opening five minutes.

Tennessee took advantage, scoring eight points off those turnovers.

Perhaps fittingly, both teams didn’t get much breathing room on the court or scoreboard.

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: A year after a heartbreaking, one-point loss to San Diego State prevented the program from its first Final Four, the Bluejays will have another long offseason to wonder what they could have done to get over the hump.

Tennessee: Barnes had his team prepared and made sound adjustments, but he needs another win to quiet his critics.

Tennezsee athletics press release

March 29, 2024





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