SECOND-SEEDED VOLS CRUISE TO 83-49 WIN OVER SAINT PETER’S IN NCAA OPENER
Courtesy / UT Athletics

SECOND-SEEDED VOLS CRUISE TO 83-49 WIN OVER SAINT PETER’S IN NCAA OPENER

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For the third consecutive season, the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team claimed a first-round victory in the NCAA Tournament, this time with an 83-49 decision Thursday night against No. 15-seeded Saint Peter’s.

Sixth-ranked, second-seeded Tennessee (25-8, 14-4 SEC) led wire-to-wire at Spectrum Center and got a game-best 23 points from fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht, who entered the top five on the program’s single-season scoring list. The triumph also served as the 200th for head coach Rick Barnes in his Tennessee tenure, making him the 19th coach ever to hit that number at two Division I schools.

The Volunteers scored the first seven points in the opening two-and-a-half minutes to immediately grab control and shortly thereafter used a 19-2 run in 7:10 to push the lead all the way to 22, 29-7, with 7:04 on the timer. Junior forward Jonas Aidoo had 13 points on a perfect 5-of-5 field-goal clip at that time. Meanwhile, Saint Peter’s (19-14, 12-8 MAAC) went 3-of-20 from the floor, including 1-of-10 from deep, through the first 13 minutes.

Tennessee went on a 14-2 spurt in 3:48 late in the first session to go up by 29, 46-17, with 55 ticks left in the frame. The Peacocks hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 46-20 at the intermission. The Volunteers shot 64.0 percent (16-of-25) through 20 minutes, including 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from deep, while holding Saint Peter’s to 23.3 percent (7-of-30) and 26.7 percent (4-of-15) respective clips.

The Volunteers stretched their margin to a then-game-best 33, 65-32, with 12:29 remaining. They went scoreless for the next four-plus minutes, but conceded just six points during that stretch and never let the Peacocks seriously challenge them the rest of the way.

Tennessee went up by as many as 36 points on multiple occasions and claimed a 34-point triumph, its second-largest ever in NCAA Tournament action and the biggest by any SEC team in the NCAA Tournament since March 21, 2019.

Knecht, who recorded 20-plus points for the 14th time in the last 19 affairs, shot 8-of-15 from the floor, including 4-of-8 beyond the arc. He also led all players with eight rebounds in his 29 minutes of action.

Junior guard Zakai Zeigler, in a showdown with his half-brother, Armoni, recorded the first points/assists double-double by a Volunteer in NCAA Tournament play. He totaled 11 points and 10 assists, the latter the fourth-most ever by a Tennessee player in the NCAA Tournament, while committing just two turnovers.

Aidoo finished with 15 points on 5-of-6 field-goal shooting, grabbed three rebounds and blocked three shots to enter the top three on the school’s single-season leaderboard.

Senior guard Latrell Reid finished as the lone Peacock with double-digit points, tallying 17 on a 6-of-13 clip in the setback.

Every other player on Saint Peter’s combined to shoot 10-of-42, as the team went 16-of-55 (29.1 percent) overall. The Peacocks did not make a 3-pointer in the second half and concluded the night at 4-of-24 (16.7 percent).

Tennessee, meanwhile, shot 45.8 percent (11-of-28) from 3-point range in the victory, as well as a 28-13 advantage in bench points. It also had a commanding 47-21 margin in rebounds, leading to a 14-4 ledger in second-chance points.

Up next for the Volunteers is a Round of 32 matchup against Texas, with action set for Saturday at 8 p.m., live on CBS from Spectrum Center.

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
• Barnes now owns 804 victories in his career, one behind Rick Byrd for No. 14 on the all-time wins list (min. 10 years at a Division I school).
• Barnes is the 19th coach to win 200 games at two Division I schools, including the eighth among active coaches, joining Dana Altman, John Calipari, Fran Dunphy, Jim Larrañaga, Bob Marlin, Rick Pitino and Kelvin Sampson on the latter list.
• Barnes now owns 12 25-win seasons in his head coaching tenure, tying Matt Painter for the seventh-most any active Division I head coach.
• Tennessee moved to 2-0 all-time against Saint Peter’s, with both contests coming in postseason competition.
• This is the eighth time Tennessee has won at least 25 games in a single season, including the third in a row and the fifth in the last seven seasons under Barnes.
• The Volunteers are now 26-26 all-time in their 27 NCAA Tournament trips, including 17-9 in opening games, 16-8 in the first round, 7-5 under Barnes, 6-3 as a No. 2 seed, 4-0 versus No. 15 seeds, 16-4 against double-digit seeds, 21-11 versus lower seeds, 22-24 in regulation, 7-7 in North Carolina and 3-4 in Charlotte.
• This is the third time Tennessee has won an NCAA Tournament game in at least three straight years, joining 1979/1980/1981/1982 (four) and 2006/2007/2008.
• The Volunteers now own a 77-24 (.762) record in 101 games as an AP top-10 team under Barnes’ direction.
• The lone larger win for Tennessee in NCAA Tournament play was on March 16, 2007, when it defeated Long Beach State by 35, 121-86.
• The last SEC team to win an NCAA Tournament contest by 34-plus points was Kentucky when it defeated Abilene Christian by 35, 79-44, on March 21, 2019.
• Tennessee’s 34 defensive rebounds set a program record in NCAA Tournament play, surpassing the prior mark of 32 on March 12, 1999, versus Delaware.
• In the first 11:08 of action, Aidoo (13 on 5-of-5 shooting) and Knecht (11 on 4-of-7 shooting) combined for 24 of Tennessee’s 27 points on a 10-of-12 field-goal ledger.
• Tennessee’s 26-point halftime lead was its largest ever in an NCAA Tournament contest, surpassing the 25-point edge, 54-29, it held against Longwood on March 17, 2022.
• The last time the Volunteers shot over 60 percent in a half was Feb. 14 when they went 14-of-23 (60.9) in the second session at Arkansas.
• Thursday marked the fourth time this season Tennessee held its opponent to 20 or fewer points in the opening half, joining the home matchups with Tennessee Tech (12 on Nov. 6, 2023), Norfolk State (18 on Jan. 2, 2024) and Vanderbilt (20 on Feb. 17, 2024).
• In the first half alone, the Volunteers posted a 20-4 edge in paint points and a 7-0 advantage in second-chance points.
• Zeigler now owns eight points/assists double-doubles as a Volunteer—three have come this season—good for three more than any other player in program history.
• Zeigler is just first Volunteer and just the 13th SEC player—15th occurrence—ever to notch a points/assist double-double in the NCAA Tournament, including the second in the last nine years, alongside Alabama’s Jahvon Quinerly, who did so on March 22, 2021, against Maryland.
• Zeigler became the fourth Tennessee player to notch double-digit assists in an NCAA Tournament contest, joining Dane Bradshaw (11 on March 16, 2007, versus Long Beach State), Bert Bertelkamp (16 on March 8, 1980, versus Maryland) and Johnny Darden (12 on March 13, 1977, versus Syracuse).
• Aidoo blocked three shots to give him 64 this year, putting him in the top three on the program’s single-season list, as he passed Grant Williams (2016-17) and tied Kyle Alexander (2018-19).
• Now owning 699 points in 2023-24, Knecht moved past four players—Ernie Grunfeld (1975-76), Jordan McRae (2013-14), Grant Williams (2018-19) and Reggie Johnson (1978-79) to jump from ninth to fifth on Tennessee’s single-season scoring leaderboard.
• Knecht’s 699 points mark the top total by a Volunteer in a single season since Allan Houston amassed 717 in 1991-92.
 Knecht now owns 36 20-point performances in his three-year Division I career, including 17 in his lone season as a Volunteer and 14 in the last 19 contests.
 Seven Volunteers made their NCAA Tournament debuts: Knecht, senior forward Colin Coyne, freshman forward J.P. Estrella, redshirt freshman guard Freddie Dilione V, junior guard Jordan Gainey, redshirt sophomore guard Grant Hurst and freshman forward Cade Phillips.

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