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Three Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Comeback Bid Comes Up Short At North Carolina

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It took North Carolina less than nine minutes to open up an 16-point lead that all but warmed up the Vols’ bus.

The Tar Heels put together a dominant offensive performance to earn a 100-92 victory over Tennessee in the ACC-SEC Challenge. North Carolina became just the second team to score triple digits against Tennessee since the Tar Heels did it in 2006.

Here’s three quick takeaways on the loss.

Tennessee Unable To Find Stops

It’s not often someone goes out and scores 61 points in one half against Tennessee or 100 over the course of a full game. But that’s what the Tar Heels did in a dominant offensive performance against Tennessee on Wednesday night. In fact, North Carolina was the first team to score 60 points in a half against Tennessee since 2006.

The Tar Heels came out firing, hitting three triples before the first media timeout. They didn’t hardly slow down.

To score 100 points, you have to shoot very well and North Carolina certainly did. The Tar Heels shot 46% from the field, 43% from three-point range and 84% from the free throw line. Those numbers were 58/44/100 in the first half.

But the 100 points were just as much a testament to Tennessee’s defense than it was North Carolina’s offense. The Vols got beat off the dribble and had poor rotations leading to frequent wide open three-point attempts.

Then Jonas Aidoo spent 12 first half minutes on the bench with two fouls. With Tobe Awaka also sidelined with an injury, Tennessee’s rim protection completely evaporated. North Carolina got an abundance of easy looks at the basket and shot 10-of-12 at the basket in the first half.

And when North Carolina did miss, they often got the rebound. The Tar Heels totaled 12 offensive rebounds and totaled 13 second chance points.

More From RTI: Two Tennessee Players Out Against North Carolina

First Half Turnovers Galore

Tennessee actually did some things well on the offensive end at North Carolina but those were minimized by a number of issues on that end— most notably turning the ball over.

Rick Barnes inserted Zakai Zeigler into the starting lineup in hopes of it getting him out of his early season slump. Zeigler did play better but the Vols still had plenty of guard play issues.

And besides Zeigler, Tennessee’s guard play was poor. The Vols’ guards struggled to create open shots for others.

But turnovers were an issue for both guards and big men alike. Tennessee turned the ball over nine times in the first half on its way to 12 for the game. The Vols’ nine first half turnovers were a large reason why they shot only 5% worse than North Carolina from the field but trailed by 22 points at halftime.

The Tar Heels did a good job of parlaying Tennessee’s carelessness into points on the other end. North Carolina scored 20 points in transition and 21 off Tennessee turnovers.

Dalton Knecht Sparks Tennessee Comeback Bid

Despite a terrible first half, Tennessee didn’t go away in the second half and mounted a mini comeback which cut North Carolina’s lead to as few as six points.

The Vols used improved defense during the stretch but it was truly Dalton Knecht’s brilliant offensive play that helped Tennessee claw back within striking distance.

Knecht scored 22 second half points on his way to a game-high 37 points on an efficient 76% shooting from the field. When North Carolina doubled Knecht off of every screen, the Northern Colorado made the smart play and found open shooters who knocked down perimeter shots.

That’s what happened when Josiah-Jordan James buried a triple with 7:27 to play to cut the Tar Heels lead to seven points. But RJ Davis re-sparked life in the Dean Dome on the ensuing possession when he drilled a contested triple with the shot clock winding down.

Davis’ triple sparked a 8-0 North Carolina run which ended any hopes of a miraculous Tennessee comeback. Still, Knecht’s performance was special despite the loss. He became just the third opposing player in the last seven seasons to score 30-plus points at the Dean Dome.

Knecht’s special game ended the wrong way as he suffered an ankle injury while stepping on a defender’s foot with 1:39 remaining in the game.

Final Stats

Up Next

Tennessee returns to the court in six days when it hosts George Mason at Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center on Tuesday, Dec. 5

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