Dalton Knecht scores 24 points to lead No. 9 Tennessee to 80-70 victory at Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Dalton Knecht hasn’t needed any adjustment period to make the jump from the Big Sky Conference to high-major college basketball.
The transfer from Northern Colorado scored 24 points and continued a smooth transition to his new school as No. 9 Tennessee defeated Wisconsin 80-70 on Friday night.
The 6-foot-6 Knecht shot 8 of 15 from the floor and 7 for 9 on free throws, reaching 1,000 career points in two seasons plus two games of Division I ball.
“Dalton’s a bad man, a very bad man,” teammate Tobe Awaka said.
Knecht led the Big Sky with 20.2 points per game last season. He averaged a team-best 16.3 points during Tennessee’s three-game exhibition tour of Italy this summer and had 17 points in his Volunteers debut Monday, an 80-42 blowout of Tennessee Tech.
His new teammates said Knecht’s potential was apparent as soon as he arrived on campus. Tennessee guard Josiah-Jordan James said it was obvious the first time he worked out with Knecht.
“We’re comfortable every time the ball is in his hands,” said James, who scored 14 points. “In the crunch time of the games — the last eight minutes — we feed off of him on the offensive end. He led us to the promised land today.”
Jonas Aidoo and Jordan Gainey each added 10 points for Tennessee (2-0).
AJ Storr scored 17, Steven Crowl 14, Chucky Hepburn 13 and Tyler Wahl 10 for Wisconsin (1-1). All of Wahl’s points came in the second half.
Tennessee had a 43-35 lead at the break after shooting 15 of 27 over the first 20 minutes and closing the first half on a 12-4 run. Wisconsin continually crept closer in the second half, but Tennessee answered every time.
“We kept cutting it and making it close, and then we couldn’t get over that hump,” Crowl said. “I think the main thing for us is our defense. We’ve got to tighten some things up on defense.”
After Wahl scored to cut the Vols’ lead to 54-53 with 11:45 left, Tennessee responded on its next possession as James scored with the shot clock about to expire. Wisconsin’s Nolan Winter then missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 10:44 remaining.
Wisconsin shaved the deficit to three again on another basket by Wahl with 8:03 to go, but Knecht answered by driving the baseline, scoring and drawing a foul to convert a 3-point play. That started a 9-2 run in which Wisconsin missed three straight free throws.
Tennessee’s lead didn’t drop below six the rest of the way.
Tennessee: The Vols did a nice job of staying poised while facing an early road test in front of a sellout crowd. They shot 50% from the floor — they were 5 of 17 on 3s but 23 of 39 from inside the arc — and showcased their depth by outscoring Wisconsin 23-8 in bench points.
Wisconsin: This represented the first big test in the Badgers’ grueling pre-holiday schedule. Wisconsin hosts No. 5 Marquette on Dec. 2, visits No. 4 Michigan State in its Big Ten opener Dec. 5 and travels to No. 12 Arizona on Dec. 9. The Badgers will need to shoot better from 3-point range and the foul line to have a chance in those games. Wisconsin went 6 of 24 on 3-point attempts and 14 of 23 on free throws Friday.
Wisconsin received the most votes of any team not in the preseason Top 25, so a victory almost certainly would have put the Badgers in the poll next week.
Tennessee: Will host Wofford on Tuesday.
Wisconsin: Plays at Providence on Tuesday.
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