Illinois Basketball

Dalton Knecht scores 21 to lead No. 17 Tennessee over No. 20 Illinois 86-79


KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE – DECEMBER 09: Ty Rodgers #20 of the Illinois Fighting Illini drives to the basket against Dalton Knecht #3 of the Tennessee Volunteers in the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena on December 09, 2023 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Dalton Knecht scored 21 points and No. 17 Tennessee rallied from a second-half deficit to beat No. 20 Illinois 86-79 Saturday.

Knecht had eight points in a pivotal four-minute stretch when Tennessee (6-3) rallied from a four-point deficit to a six-point lead with just over 13 minutes to play. The Illini were held scoreless in the stretch.

“This was the most focus, knowing what we had to do on the defensive end, all season,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “(The Illini) challenge everything you do.”

“Dalton's really good,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. “Let's be real. He does a good job getting fouled.”

Guard Santiago Vescovi added 12 points and nine rebounds against the much-taller Illini. Jonas Aidoo scored 14 and Josiah-Jordan James had 12 points and seven assists and Zakai Zeigler scored 11. Tennessee commanded the boards, 43-34.

“(Tennessee) whooped our butt on the glass in the second half,” said Underwood.

“(Vescovi) is such a big part of who we've been,” Barnes said. “I'm really proud of him and the older guys. They were prepared for this.” (Vescovi) had an aggressive mentality. He was able to have the ‘fix-it’ plays that are so important."

Quincy Guerrier and Terrence Shannon scored 22 each to lead Illinois (7-2). Coleman Hawkins had 12. The Illini were limited to 35% shooting from the field.

“We're really good,” said Underwood. “We've got a really high ceiling. We just missed some shots and were out of sorts.”

Tennessee went more than four minutes without scoring in the first half, allowing Illinois to build a 36-34 halftime lead behind 12 points by Guerrier. Knecht, who was limited to 11 minutes by foul trouble, led the Vols with eight.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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