Tennessee beats Duke, wins 65-52 and advances to Sweet 16

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Olivier Nkamhoua was a little hesitant to enter the Tennessee’s post-game locker room after a career performance against powerhouse Duke in the NCAA tournament. So Uros Plavsic picked him up and delivered him to teammates who were waiting to douse him with water.

It was appropriate revenge considering Nkamhoua had carried the volunteers for most of the afternoon.

Nkamhoua tied his career-high 27 points, including 13 straight for Tennessee during a crucial second-half stretch, and the fourth-ranked Volunteers bullied Duke 65-52 on Saturday to climb back into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019 .

“We’re a tough, hard-nosed team,” said Nkamhoua. “That’s how we all play. But knowing they had a lot of newbies, we knew that when we came in and we were pushing more and being tough and physical, they had to deal with that.

“What we said ahead of the game is that we would bring them into the mud with us and get them to play a hard, tenacious game and see if they were up for it.”

They weren’t, and Tennessee’s experience — the Vols start with four seniors — proved too much for Duke’s vaunted freshmen.

Santiago Vescovi added 14 points and five assists for Tennessee (25-10), ending Duke’s 10-game winning streak and sending first-year coach Jon Scheyer, set to replace Mike Krzyzewski, home after just two NCAA tournament games . I’m not sure there was anything else Coach K could have done to combat these Vols, who used some degree of “bullyball” to send the fifth-place Blue Devils (27-9) home.

“We believe we’re at our best when we can do that,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes.

Nkamhoua fired 10 of 13 shots and with an emphatic slam put an exclamation mark on Tennessee’s win with 1:15 remaining. It got Vols fans singing and Duke fans running for the exits.

“You really have to work hard in a game like this,” said Scheyer, whose team overshot the ball 15 times and only got 6 out of 22 from a 3-point range. “You have to work to open yourself up.”

Tennessee meets Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Thursday.

Duke didn’t do well with Tennessee’s imposing style all afternoon. The volunteers set the tone early and clearly wanted to push Kyle Filipowski around and get their hands in the faces of guards Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor.

Vol’s big man Uros Plavsic conceded two offensive fouls in the first four minutes, both against Filipowski. The 7-foot Duke later elbowed himself in the face and ended up suffering a small cut under his left eye.

Proctor made several attempts to smash the ball, received a five-second call, flipped it once, and almost gave it up again. Roach had even more problems, recording his fourth foul with 15 minutes to go and ending the game with five turnovers.

“We prepare for a dogfight every game,” Nkamhoua said. “Getting people to play our game just ensures we’re in our element.”

It helped that the Vols watched the ball much better than they did in the first round win over Louisiana-Lafayette. They turned it over just nine times, half as many as Thursday, and the fewest since point guard Zakai Zeigler picked up a season-ending knee injury last month.

Proctor led Duke with 16 points and six assists. Roach and Filipowski each scored 13 points. Dereck Lively II was scoreless but had 11 rebounds and two blocks.

“I thought we ran out of fuel on the route,” said Scheyer.


Duke: The Blue Devils played without 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward Mark Mitchell, who suffered a late scrape from a knee injury. It’s unlikely Mitchell would have made a difference, but he certainly would have helped down against the Vols.

Tennessee: The Vols stumbled into the tournament after losing six out of 10, but now they’re on a winning streak and have reestablished their identity as a big, physical, deep, defensive-minded team capable of throwing seizures at anyone.


Duke: The Blue Devils are turning their attention to what’s happening with their talented team and the NBA. All eyes will be on newcomers Dereck Lively II, Filipowski and Proctor and their upcoming decisions.

Source : www.washingtontimes.com

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