Knecht’s 37 points not enough as Vols fall at North Carolina

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee's Dalton Knecht scored 37 points Wednesday night, but it wasn't enough as the No. 10 Volunteers lost at No. 17 North Carolina 100-92 in the ACC/SEC Challenge.
Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee's Dalton Knecht scored 37 points Wednesday night, but it wasn't enough as the No. 10 Volunteers lost at No. 17 North Carolina 100-92 in the ACC/SEC Challenge.

Wednesday's marquee matchup of the ACC/SEC Challenge was a monstrous mismatch for most of the night as North Carolina torched Tennessee's defense for 61 first-half points in an eventual 100-92 triumph at Chapel Hill.

A Cormac Ryan 3-pointer less than three minutes into the second half gave the No. 17 Tar Heels a 71-47 lead, but the No. 10 Volunteers made a run behind the impressive duo of Dalton Knecht and Josiah-Jordan James, who combined for 57 points on 21-of-28 shooting. Knecht racked up 37 points and was 13-of-17 from the floor, but he rolled his left ankle in the final minutes and was unable to finish the game.

Two free throws by Jonas Aidoo with 1:39 remaining pulled the Vols within 92-86, but that was as close as it got.

"I told the team at halftime that in the time I've been at Tennessee, I thought it was the worst half of basketball I've seen one of our teams play," coach Rick Barnes said on the Vol Network. "We did not give ourselves a chance tonight, but we did fight back."

Tennessee entered Wednesday with one of the nation's elite defenses, having allowed just 57.9 points per game last season and 61.5 through this season's first six contests, but the Tar Heels blew through the Vols behind 27 points from RJ Davis, 22 from Armando Bacot and 20 from Harrison Ingram.

The Tar Heels (6-1) came out of the media timeout at the 11:59 mark of the first half with three Ryan free throws and a Jalen Washington layup to take command at 28-12. A Bacot layup off an assist by Elliot Cadeau followed by a Bacot free throw enabled North Carolina to double up the Vols 42-21 with 7:55 before halftime.

"They're an unbelievable defensive team," Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said on the ESPN broadcast, "but I felt like we got our pace on the offensive end."

The Vols (4-3) played without 6-foot-8, 250-pound sophomore forward Tobe Awaka, who sustained an ankle injury in the Maui Invitational.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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