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Tennessee Dalton Knecht’s monumental night leads Vols to win and coaches amazed

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There was no shortage of praise for Dalton Knecht following one of the most dominant performances in a big game against a good opponent in the history of Tennessee basketball. Yes, Knecht was that good, especially when it mattered, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

“Dalton was terrific and he was very hard to stop one-on-one, he hit a lot of tough shots, a lot of shots that were contested, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said after the game.

That’s an understatement. Knecht personally outscored the 11th-ranked Tigers by four points in the final 12 minutes of the game. He scored 39 points, was 12-of-21 from the field, hit five of eight shot from three-point range and keeps marching towards being named SEC Player of the Year. Knecht has scored 30 points or more six times this season and matched his career high on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

“I mean, we sent the double (team) a couple times, we got a turnover,” Pearl said. “We sent a double and one time he passed out of it and they got a dunk. I felt like we had guys who could guard him. When Tennessee wins, they typically win when everybody contributes; tonight, he sort of dispelled that.”

Knecht did just about everything during his historic run in the second half. He hit long three-point shots, scored from midrange, drove to the hoop, threw down some monstrous dunks and never let up on the Tigers as the rest of the Vols were struggling for the first part of the second half.

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“What he did in the last about 12 minutes, I think, was just one of the great performances that I’ve been able to see,” Barnes said.

It was obvious for anyone in Thompson-Boling Arena that the Vols were going to depend on Knecht down the streak as Tennessee made sure he touched the ball, or led the offense altogether, on every possession during the final 12 minutes of the game. 

“He got it going and we just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to get it to him and the other guys are ready, try to get him open and then he’ll make the play, and then we got to rebound the ball,” Barnes said.

Knecht has become one of the biggest surprises in college basketball since he transferred from Northern Colorado for his final season of eligibility. Barnes almost seemed sympathetic to any other coach that was having to face Knecht when he decides to take over a game.

“I’m telling you, when you sit there, you feel helpless because of the shots he makes and just trying to guard him the best you can,” Barnes said. “But when he gets it going, it’s hard to guard.”

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