Nkamhoua’s Career Day Takes Down Duke, Leads Vols to Sweet Sixteen

ORLANDO – Career high 27 points Olivier Nkamhoua and a stifling defensive performance carried fourth-ranked Tennessee on Saturday as the Vols earned their ninth Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history with a 65-52 win over No. 5 Duke.

With the win, Tennessee (25-10) advances to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. The Vols will face either Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Tipoff time has not yet been announced.

Nkamhoua’s 27 points — 23 of which came in the second half — tied his career high on Jan. 28 against Texas and came on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4. From the 8:43 mark to the 4:16 mark of the second half, Nkamhoua scored 13 straight points for the Vols. In all, he scored 17 of Tennessee’s final 19 points.

full SEG guard Santiago Vescovi He was Tennessee’s second-leading scorer, scoring 14 points with four 3-pointers, five assists and five rebounds.

A native of Durham, North Carolina Jonas Aidoo He also had an impact with the Vols’ overall performance — scoring eight points, five rebounds and three blocks.

Tennessee’s suffocating defense was evident on the scoreboard, as Duke’s 52 points were not only a season low for the Blue Devils, but tied for the fewest in an NCAA Tournament game in program history. The Vols forced Duke into 15 turnovers.

After holding a six-point lead at halftime, Tennessee extended it to nine points early in the second half thanks to a pair of 3-pointers. Josias-Jordan James and Nkamhoua, but Duke quickly fought back — cutting the Vols’ lead to two points at the 15:40 mark after a quick 7-0 run.

For the first of several times in the second half, the Vols responded on their own to keep distance from the Blue Devils — outscoring Duke 11-4 over the next four minutes of the game to pull back by nine. 11:54 left, 44-35.

Immediately following Tennessee’s run, Duke responded of its own — cutting Tennessee’s lead to just four with 9:10 left, 46-42.

Then Nkamhoua came in, scoring all 13 of the Vols’ points in a 13-6 Tennessee run to put Tennessee in control for good — up 11 with 4:16 left.

With victory all but assured and just over a minute to play, Nkamhoua put an exclamation point on his performance and Tennessee’s victory with 1:15 left.

Tennessee’s defensive intensity also set the tone throughout the first half, as the Vols took a 27-21 lead into halftime. Duke’s 21 first-half points were tied for the fewest in a half this season.

After a tightly contested first seven minutes, Duke created some separation with a 9-0 run to lead by six at 19-13 with 8:05 left in the first half.

Tennessee, however, responded to its biggest deficit of the half by closing out the opening period on a 14-2 run over the final 7:49. Of the Vols’ 14 points, 11 came from the duo of Vescovi and Aidoo, who each scored eight points in the first half.

NEXT: Tennessee advances to the Sweet Sixteen and will face either Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Tipoff time has not yet been announced.

SWEET SIXTEEN VOL: Saturday’s win gave Tennessee its ninth Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history and first since 2019. The Vols have competed in the round of 16 in 1967, 1981, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2019.

WE ARE OUT OF THE CLASSIC TENNESSEE UNIFORMS: For the sixth time this season, the Vols donned their “Tennessee Classic” uniforms and improved to 6-0 in the process.

The Big Orange also wore Tennessee Classic uniforms against No. 10 Texas, No. 1 Alabama, Arkansas, in the SEC Championship against Ole Miss and in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Louisiana.

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