KNECHT SCORES 39 IN 85-66 VICTORY OVER FLORIDA

Courtesy / UT Athletics

KNECHT SCORES 39 IN 85-66 VICTORY OVER FLORIDA

Courtesy / UT Athletics

Game Recap: Men’s Basketball | January 16, 2024

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a career-high 39 points from fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team rolled past Florida, 85-66, Tuesday night at Food City Center.

Knecht, who became the first Volunteer with back-to-back 30-point games since Chris Lofton in Feb. 2006, helped No. 6/7 Tennessee (13-4, 3-1 SEC) build a lead as high as 22 in a game it never trailed.

After a sluggish start offensively for both sides, the Volunteers scored eight straight points, part of a 10-1 burst in 4:20, to go up by a dozen, 24-12, with 7:05 on the first-half clock. The Gators went over five minutes without a field goal, missing five in a row in a 1-of-10 stretch.

Tennessee extended the advantage all the way to 17, 36-19, with 3:26 left in the frame. It made six consecutive field goals, including four by Knecht, who went on a personal 10-2 run in under two minutes. The Gators pulled back within 10, but Knecht hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a 16-point game with 38 ticks left in the session.

Florida (11-6, 1-3 SEC) scored the final four points of the frame and the Volunteers entered the locker room with a 12-point edge, 44-32. Knecht scored 22 points in the opening 20 minutes, making nine consecutive field goals—three from 3-point range—after missing his opening attempt.

Soon after the intermission, the Volunteers pushed the margin up to 20 for the first time with seven consecutive points in 49 seconds, including five by junior guard Zakai Zeigler, making it 57-37 with 15:46 to go. Florida answered with a 12-2 spurt in just 2:25 to slice the deficit in half, 59-49, with 12:54 to go.

Tennessee, though, countered with 12 straight points in 4:28 to take a game-best 22-point edge, 73-51, with 7:40 to go, forcing seven straight misses by the Gators. From that point on, Florida never got any closer than 17, as the Volunteers earned their second SEC home win by 19-plus in as many opportunities.

Knecht’s 39 points came on 13-of-23 shooting, a ledger that featured a 13-of-20 stretch from the 17:11 mark of the first half to the 4:18 mark of the second. He went 4-of-6 from 3-point range, including hitting his first four attempts, and made all nine of his free-throw attempts. The reigning SEC Co-Player of the Week added a season-high eight rebounds and committed just one turnover in his 34 minutes of action.

The Thornton, Colo., native is now one of just six Volunteers—the others are Dale Ellis, Ernie Grunfeld, Allan Houston, Bernard King and Tony White—with at least three 35-point performances. He has also recorded the most points in back-to-back-to-back contests by a Rick Barnes-coached player since Kevin Durant also had 103 in a three-game stretch on his way to being the 2006-07 consensus national player of the year. The 103 points in a three-game span are also the most by an SEC player since the 2019-20 season, while the 75 in a two-game stretch are the most by an SEC competitor since the 2008-09 campaign.

Junior forward Jonas Aidoo nearly posted a second straight double-double, finishing with 19 points and a team-best nine rebounds. He went 9-of-16 from the floor, as well as blocked two shots and dished out two assists.

Junior guard Walter Clayton Jr., paced the Gators with 16 points, but Tennessee held him to a 6-of-18 field-goal clip, including a 1-of-7 figure beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Riley Kugel scored 12 points, while graduate student guard Zyon Pullin logged 11 with the Volunteers limiting him to a 2-of-11 shooting mark. Graduate student forward Tyrese Samuel added 10 points and a game-best 11 rebounds.

Tennessee finished the night shooting 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the field and 17-of-21 (81.0 percent) at the line. It also held the Gators to just 29.4 percent (20-of-68) shooting, including a 22.7 percent (5-of-22) ledger on 3-pointers.

The Volunteers, who had 17 assists to Florida’s seven, also produced a 38-26 advantage in paint points in the triumph.

Up next for Tennessee is another home matchup at Food City Center, as it takes the court Saturday at 2 p.m. against Alabama, live on ESPN2.

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.  

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS POSTGAME NOTES
• Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes now owns 792 victories in his career, 10 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).
• The Volunteers are now 8-2 in their last 10 games versus the Gators after going just 1-4 in the prior five contests.
• Tennessee has won seven consecutive home games against Florida, a stretch that dates back to Jan. 6, 2016.
• The Volunteers improved to 16-8 against Florida while they are ranked and the Gators are not, while Florida is just 13-11 with the rankings reversed.
• With triumphs over Ole Miss’ Chris Beard and Florida’s Todd Golden in back-to-back home games, Barnes has now defeated 12 of the other 13 SEC head coaches, with Missouri’s Dennis Gates—he is in just his second year in the league—the only exception.
• Tennessee improved to 13-1 on non-Wednesdays this season, with the lone setback a four-point defeat against then-second-ranked Purdue during the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21, 2023, in Honolulu.
• At least one Volunteer has scored 20-plus points in seven of the past nine games, with a total of nine such performances in that stretch.
• Through the first four-and-a-half minutes, Tennessee rebounded all five—three by Aidoo—of its missed field goals, while Florida grabbed three—all by Samuel—of its five.
• Aidoo has scored 13-plus points in six of the last 11 games after reaching that number just twice in his first 57 appearances.
• Freshman forward J.P. Estrella set a career high with seven points, finishing 2-of-2 from the field and 3-of-4 at the line.
• From the 5:23 mark to the 0:38 mark of the first half, Tennessee went on an 18-4 run, with Knecht scoring 16 of the Volunteers’ points and Estrella posting the other two.
• With 14 consecutive Tennessee points in the first half, Knecht tied for the fifth-longest such stretch in program history and logged the 10th such occurrence ever.
• Knecht registered 20 of Tennessee’s final 22 points—Estrella’s were the other two—in the final 7:05 of the first half, hitting all nine of his field goals (three 3-pointers) and lone free throw.
• The last player Barnes coached who had 35-plus thrice in a season was Kevin Durant, who hit that mark four times in 2006-07.
• Additionally, Knecht’s 103 points over the last three outings match the most Durant had in a three-game stretch, as he posted that exact total from Jan. 27-Feb. 3, 2007.
• Over the last three seasons (2021-24), only four other Division I players have recorded back-to-back 35-point games: New Orleans’ Jordan Johnson (Jan. 2024), Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis (Feb. 2023 and Jan. 2023), Eastern Michigan’s Tyson Acuff (Feb. 2023) and Chattanooga’s Jake Stephens (Jan. 2023).
• The last Power Six player with consecutive 35-point outings was Iowa’s Luka Garza, who did so on Nov. 27, 2020, versus Southern (41) and Dec. 3, 2020, against Western Illinois (35).
• The most recent time a Power Six player had back-to-back 35-point games in league play was nearly five years ago when Marquette’s Markus Howard on Feb. 9, 2019, against Villanova (39) and Feb. 12, 2019, versus DePaul (36).
• Per Elias Sports Bureau, Knecht is the first SEC player with 28-plus points in three consecutive games in over three years, dating back to LSU’s Cameron Thomas doing so from Dec. 26, 2020, to Jan. 2, 2021.
• Over the last seven seasons, the only other SEC player with 28-plus points in three straight league games is Arkansas’ Mason Jones, who did so from Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2020.
• According to Jared Berson, the last SEC player with consecutive 35-point performances was, based off available data, likely LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal nearly 33 years ago, on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20, 1991.
• The last SEC player with 75-plus points in a two-game stretch was Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks, who compiled a total of 76 in back-to-back outings on Jan. 13, 2009, at Tennessee (54) and Jan. 18, 2009, at Georgia (22), while he also had 21 in the game before that stretch (Jan. 10, 2009 at Vanderbilt) to give him two such streaks in a three-game span.
• Over the last four seasons, only eight other Division I players have posted 75-plus points in a two-game stretch, as Knecht joined a group that includes New Orleans’ Jordan Johnson (Jan. 2024), Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis (three times), Northern Kentucky’s Marques Warrick (Nov./Dec. 2022), Liberty’s Darius McGhee (two times), Bryant’s Charles Pride (Feb. 2022), Missouri State’s Isiaih Mosley (Jan. 2022), Oral Roberts’ Max Abmas (Feb. 2021) and Iowa’s Luka Garza (Nov./Dec. 2020).
• The last SEC player with even back-to-back 30-point games was Alabama’s Brandon Miller, who did so on Jan. 14 and Jan. 17, 2023.
• Only two other SEC players in the last 15 seasons (2009-24) have totaled at least 100 points in a three-game span: Ole Miss’ Breein Tyree (101 from Feb. 5-11, 2020) and Arkansas’ Mason Jones (104 from Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2020).
• Knecht has scored 101 points in his last 100 minutes—five halves—of basketball, as just two of the 103 came in the opening frame of the first game in that stretch.
• Knecht has scored 16-plus points in four straight halves, dating back to the second session at Mississippi State on Jan. 10, logging 20-plus in three of those frames.
• Tennessee has a total of seven 35-point outings by four different players in the last 17 seasons (2007-24), with Knecht owning three of them, including half of the six in regulation.
• The only Tennessee player with 30-plus points thrice in one season in at least the last 19 years (2005-24) is Kevin Punter Jr., who did so in 2015-16, Barnes’ first season at Tennessee, but reached 35-plus just once.
• Knecht, Punter Jr., and Texas’ J’Covan Brown (four in 2011-12) are the only players with at least three games of even 30 points on a Rick Barnes-coached team since Durant in 2006-07.
• Knecht now owns the three highest single-game point totals by a Volunteer this season: 39 versus Florida, 37 at North Carolina (Nov. 29, 2023) and 36 at Georgia (Jan. 13, 2024).
• Per ESPN Stats & Info, the last Tennessee player with back-to-back 35-point games was Allan Houston, who did so Dec. 22, 1990, at Oregon State (37) and Dec. 27, 1990, versus Wichita State in Honolulu (36), after he also did so the prior season on Feb. 10, 1990, versus LSU (43) and Feb. 14, 1990.
• The last Volunteer to notch even 30-plus back-to-back was Chris Lofton Dec. 6, 2006, versus Memphis (34) and Dec. 16, 2006, against Western Kentucky (32).
• Lofton is also the last Volunteer with 30-plus in two straight SEC games, as he did so on Feb. 7, 2006, against Kentucky (31) and Feb. 11, 2006, versus Georgia (33).
• Knecht’s 39 points tied for the 16th-most in a contest in program history and marked the 19th time a Volunteer reached that figure.
• Knecht is now one of six players in Tennessee history with at least three 35-point games, joining Bernard King (11), Ernie Grunfeld (eight), Allan Houston (six), Tony White (four) and Dale Ellis (three).
• Only five Volunteers have three 36-point showings: King (10), Grunfeld (eight), Houston (six), Knecht (three) and White (three).
• Only four other Tennessee players—six instances—have scored 35-plus points in back-to-back games: Houston in Dec. 1990 and Feb. 1990, King in Feb./March 1977, Grunfeld in March 1976 and Dec. 1975, and Ron Widby in March 1967.
• Knecht, Houston (Feb. 1990), King and Widby are the only four Volunteers with back-to-back 35-point showings in SEC play, with the first three the lone trio to log 36-plus in both.
• The lone other Volunteers to record 35-plus points multiple times in SEC play in the same season are Knecht, Houston (1989-90), Tony White (1986-87), King (thrice in 1976-77), Grunfeld (1975-76) and Widby (1966-67).

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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