Duke's late-season surge ends with physical loss to Tennessee in NCAA Tournament
Olivier Nkamhoua was unconscious in the second half of Tennessee’s win over Duke on Saturday evening. The senior forward dropped 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, leading Tennessee over the Blue Devils with good ol’ fashioned bully ball, 65-52, in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.
Duke, which had won 10 consecutive games, was in the torture chamber from the jump. The Blue Devils shot poorly from deep, committed 15 turnovers and couldn’t stop Tennessee’s offense in the 2nd half. Duke also got into foul trouble early and struggled to recover.
Tyrese Proctor led Duke with 16. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each added 13 while battling foul trouble.
The Blue Devils led 21-18 late in the half before Tennessee seized control for good with a 9-0 run just before intermission.
Duke pulled within 2 early in the second half, but again the Vols pulled away, stretching the lead to 11.
Duke finished the season 27-9 in Jon Scheyer’s first year.
An underrated part of Tennessee’s win was Santiago Vescovi, another Tennessee senior who did not want to go home early. Vescovi dropped 14 points and was an off-the-ball magician, running all over the court to get open looks at the basket. He hit 4 3-pointers and totaled 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Tennessee advances to the Sweet 16 for just the 2nd time under Rick Barnes with Saturday’s monumental win. The Vols will face one of FAU or FDU next week.
SWEET 16 VOLS pic.twitter.com/21SqkU92ln
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 18, 2023
Not done yet?
These Vols are the exact opposite of last year’s Vols in terms of momentum heading into the Big Dance. Last year’s Tennessee won the SEC Tournament and blitzed Longwood in the first round before falling to Michigan in the Round of 32. This time around, Tennessee faltered entering the tournament, losing 2 of their last 3.
The Vols also lost star PG Zakai Zeigler for the season against Arkansas. The Vols had to adapt and adapt quickly to pull off the win Saturday. And if Tennessee keeps playing like this, there’s no denying them from their first Final Four berth. But, as always, it’s easier said than done.
Let’s see how they fare next week in the Sweet Sixteen.