Unbelievable Win: Tennessee Basketball barely edges out Texas, secures spot in Sweet 16!

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It may have looked ugly at times, but in the end, it was sweet for Tennessee basketball.

The No. 2 seed Vols defeated No. 7 seed Texas 62-58 on Saturday night in Charlotte to advance to their second straight Sweet 16.

Tennessee (26-8) came out on the winning end of a rock fight with Texas (21-13) that featured a signature Vols defense. Knecht led the way with 18 goals in a game where points were scarce and the Vols didn't make many shots.

“We expected it to be a very physical game,” Knecht said. “It was physical from the jump with both teams going back and forth. We were going to continue filming no matter what. I have confidence in all of these guys, if they're open, they're going to need to shoot that thing. “We know they will start coming in.”

Dylan Disu opened the scoring for the Longhorns with a three-pointer and then Josiah-Jordan James responded for Tennessee with a tough layup. Jonas Aidoo then made a dunk off a nice pass from Zakai Zeigler and Tennessee took a 4-3 lead.

Tobe Awaka made two free throws and then a layup to give the Vols an 8-4 lead with 13 minutes left in the first. Awaka made another layup but then committed a costly second foul. Jordan Gainey stole the ball and scored an uncontested fastbreak layup before James converted a tough reverse layup to give the Vols a 16-8 lead with 9:37 left in the first half.

Texas then went on a 6-0 run after a timeout and cut the Vols' lead to two. Knecht scored on two free throws to stop Texas' run. Awaka hit another inside shot but then committed his third foul of the half and had to sit again. The Vols led 21-17 afterward, as both teams had scoring droughts longer than three minutes. That drought ended after Gainey made two free throws and Zeigler hit a 3-pointer in the corner to give the Vols a nine-point lead.

Tennessee led at the half 28-19 after a dominant defensive performance. The Vols left a lot to be desired on the offensive end, as five players had four points and leading scorer Awaka committed three fouls at halftime.

Santiago Vescovi had a steal and layup to give Tennessee its new largest lead of 12 to open the second half. Knecht made his best play of the day with a dunk that he admired while hanging on the rim. Awaka continued his scoring production with another layup after returning.

Brock Cunningham hit a three-pointer for Texas to bring the Longhorns within nine points at 40-31 with 11:53 left. Tennessee's poor three-point shooting allowed Texas to get back into the game as the Vols started 1-19.

“It was a racing game,” Knecht said. “We knew both teams would make runs. We took the hit from him and we hit him back. We had to focus on defense to finish the game because that's what we're built on.”

Texas cut the lead to 45-42 after a deep 3-pointer by Max Abmas. Aidoo sank it over two Longhorns and put Tennessee up five again. Knecht hit a huge 3-pointer on a fading corner to break Tennessee's slump and put the Vols up by eight. James hit another three-pointer, but then Tyrese Hunter responded with consecutive layups to make the score 53-48 Vols.

Hunter cut the lead to two with 1:53 remaining after another Hunter transition layup. Abmas scored to cut the lead to 56-55 and Texas started fouling. Aidoo hit two clutch free throws to put the Vols back up three points and then Abmas missed from the corner and Knecht was fouled. He made both free throws and then Hunter hit a 3-pointer to cut the score to 60-58. Knecht returned to the line and hit both to seal the game.

“It shows a lot that we were able to win this game,” James said. “These first two games were different and I give credit to our coaches for preparing us. “We didn’t think we would shoot that badly, but coach always tells us to trust our defense and we did that to get the win today.”

The Vols will travel to Detroit for the Sweet 16 next week.

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