ORLANDO, Fla. — Tennessee men's basketball advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament by beating Duke 65-52 in the second round on Thursday in Orlando, Florida.
Duke led 10-7 at the 15:12 mark in the first half. The Vols held Duke scoreless over the next four minutes thanks to a stiffening defense. During that stretch came steals, one of which led to a thunderous alley-oop from Santiago Vescovi to Julian Phillips. Jonas Aidoo came up with a massive block during the stretch too. Tennessee gained a 13-10 lead.
The Blue Devils responded with a 9-0 run.
Three-pointers were big through the early part of the first half for Duke and they knocked down a coupe during this run. Jeremy Roach and Dariq Whitehead each made one during the run. Kyle Filipowski slammed home a dunk during the run too as Duke led 19-13.
The Vols responded in a major way. They ended the half on a 14-2 run over the last eight minutes of the first half. They took a 27-21 lead into halftime.
Vescovi and Aidoo each had 8 points in the first half to lead the way. The Vols held Duke to 36.4% shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Tennessee jumped out to a 30-21 lead when Josiah-Jordan James drilled a three-pointer on the Vols' opening possession of the half.
Duke went on a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 33-31 after Tyrese Proctor made a tough layup. Tennessee got up 36-31 after Olivier Nkamhoua scored on a layup and made a free throw after getting fouled on the attempt. That picked up the fourth foul on Duke starting guard Jeremy Roach with 15:02 left in the second half.
Tennessee got up 41-33 after Vescovi made a three-pointer with 12:32 to go.
Duke trimmed the lead to 46-42, but Nkamhoua came up with a jump shot in the paint and a three-pointer to put UT back up by nine points with the score 51-42.
Nkamhoua finished with 27 points and five rebounds.
Nkamhoua went on a stretch scoring 13 straight points for the Vols and punctuated that by giving the Vols their first double-digit lead with a three-pointer at the 4:16 mark. UT led 59-48 going into the final media timeout.
Nkamhoua had an exclamation mark putback dunk with 1:15 to go to put Tennessee up 63-52. They sealed the game from there.
Tennessee advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019 and will play the winner of Florida Atlantics and Farleigh Dickinson next. The East Region Sweet 16 and Elite 8 will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York.