Tennessee Advances Past Duke to The Sweet Sixteen Behind Nkamhoua’s 27




Tennessee – 65

Duke – 52


ORLANDO, Fla. – With a trip to The Sweet Sixteen on the line, Tennessee had their work cut out for them against a Duke team that was one of the hottest teams in America. It would be Tennessee’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2019, and a huge accomplishment for a Volunteers team that had been written off by most.

Tennessee looked more than ready for the bright lights early with a veteran group up against a young but extremely talented Duke roster. The Vols’ defense was absolutely suffocating and hid some offensive problems early, but once the Blue Devils started to break through they became more apparent. The game was physical early and often and the physical nature of it was struggling to navigate a whistle that was not allowing such a style of play. At the 13:00 mark a high-flying alley-oop slam from Julian Philips gave the Vols a 13-10 lead. With 10 minutes to go in the first half, the game was tied at 13-13.

The final stretch was dominated by Tennessee. Duke did not score for the final 4:51 as the Vols forced 11 turnovers in the first half and ended on a 14-2 run. Both teams field goal percentages were under 36% but Tennessee had turned the game in their favor with a grind-it-out style against a young Duke team that was not used to that style of basketball. Duke’s 21 points in the first half was their season low.

Tennessee started the second half off with a Josiah-Jordan James three to take their largest lead of the night. Duke was never going to go away and continued to push the Vols and put pressure on their lead. For the first time in a while Tennessee broke the streak of trading runs and was able to maintain their lead. Vescovi caught fire from behind the arc and hit some huge shots for the Vols who desperately needed the type of offensive production he can bring. Philips provided another highlight reel play with a putback slam to make it 46-37 with 10:00 to play. As we reached four minutes to play a Olivier Nkamhoua three gave the Vols their largest lead of the night as they fought off another Duke push.

Nkamhoua had scored 13 straight points for Tennessee and with 2:30 to play and a nine-point lead, Tennessee would have to show that they could finish. They did just that down the stretch. Nkamhoua, capped off a legendary performance with a massive putback dunk and the time and deficit became too much for the Blue Devils and Tennessee moved on to The Sweet Sixteen by a final score of 65-52

Olivier Nkamhoua led all scorers with 27 points. Tyrese Proctor led Duke with 16. Dereck Lively led all players with 11 rebounds, and Nkamhoua led Tennessee with five. Proctor led All players with six assists, and Santiago Vescovi led Tennessee with five.

This is what Tennessee Head Coach, Rick Barnes, and Olivier Nkamhoua had to say post-game via Wes Rucker of Govols247 on Twitter:

Tennessee’s next opponent will be either FAU or Fairleigh Dickinson in The Sweet Sixteen on Thursday.


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