3 hours ago
ORLANDO, Florida. – 27 points and a suffocating defensive performance from Olivier Nkamhua led fourth-ranked Tennessee Saturday as the Vols won the ninth Sweet Sixteen in program history with a 65-52 victory over No. 5 Duke.
With the win, Tennessee (25-10) advances to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. The Vols will face Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The prompt period is not yet known.
Nkamhua’s career-high 27-of-23 performance came in the second half against Texas on Jan. 28 and went 10-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. From 8:43 to 4:16 of the second half, Nkamhua scored 13 straight points for the Vols. Overall, he scored 17 of Tennessee’s last 19 points.
Santiago Vescovi was Tennessee’s second-leading scorer with 14 points on four 3-pointers to go along with five assists and five rebounds.
Jonas Aidoo also made an impact with an all-around performance with eight points, five rebounds and three blocks.
Tennessee’s lackluster defensive performance was evident on the scoreboard as Duke’s 52 points were not only a season-low for the Blue Devils, but also the fewest in an NCAA Tournament game in program history. The Vols forced Duke into 15 turnovers.
Leading by six points at halftime, Tennessee extended its lead to nine early in the second half thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Josiah-Jordan James and Nkamhua, but Duke quickly fought back to push the Vols back. Down by just two points at 3:40 p.m., then quickly went on a 7-0 run.
For the first of several times in the second half, the Vols answered a quick spurt of their own, keeping the Blue Devils at bay, outscoring Duke 11-4 over the next four minutes to pull within nine. Remained 11:54, 44-35.
Immediately following a Tennessee run, Duke responded with a layup of their own to cut Tennessee’s lead to just 4 with 9:10 to play, 46-42.
Then came Nkamhua, who scored all 13 of the Vols’ points during a 13-6 Tennessee run to put Tennessee ahead with 4:16 to take control.
The win, however, was secured with just over a minute to play, Nkamhua putting an exclamation point on his play and Tennessee’s victory with a putback with 1:15 to play.
Tennessee’s defensive intensity also set the tone for the entire first half as the Vols took a 27-21 halftime lead. Duke’s 21 points in the first half tied for its season-low.
After a tightly contested opening seven minutes, Duke built some separation with a 9-0 run to lead by six at 19-13 with 8:05 left in the first half.
Tennessee responded to its largest deficit of the half, however, closing the opening period on a 14-2 run with 7:49 to go. 11 of the Vols’ 14 points came from Veskov and Aidoo, who had a team-high eight points in the first half.
Tennessee advances to the Sweet Sixteen and will face either Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The prompt period is not yet known.
SWEET SIXVI VOLS.
Saturday’s win gave Tennessee its ninth Sweet Sixteen in program history and first since 2019. The Vols previously reached the Round of 16 in 1967, 1981, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2019 and 2020.
Tennessee’s classic uniforms remain UNHONORED.
For the sixth time this season, the Vols donned their Tennessee Classic uniforms and improved to 6-0 while doing so. The Big Orange also wore the Tennessee Classic uniform in victories over No. 10 Texas, No. 1 Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament and Louisiana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.