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Tennessee Basketball Looking To Get Dalton Knecht Back On Track

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Through nine games this season, Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht averaged just over 19 points per game. Over the last three games, the Northern Colorado transfer scored just 15 total points.

As the Vols head into the longest Christmas break of Rick Barnes’ 37-year coaching career, getting Knecht back on track is priority one. What does that look like for the talented wing?

“I think he’s going to have to understand if he’s not shooting the ball, he can impact games other ways,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said on Thursday night. “I think he’s always put his everything into scoring the ball. And he now is seeing some things that he’s never seen before in terms of the physicality and heavy gaps. But he doesn’t have to score it. He just needs to make good plays. And he’s capable of doing it because there’s nothing he can’t do.

“He can pass it. And believe me, once he starts making those kind of hockey assists, those Gretzkys, where he makes the pass that leads to the basket, that’s when things will change.”

Knecht’s struggles aren’t overly shocking for a star player making the adjustment to a higher level of basketball. The Colorado native more than showed he belonged early in this season but now is dealing with the consequences of his success.

Every opponent is circling Knecht on the scouting report and some are fixating their defense on slowing down the talented transfer. And with a large enough sample size, opponents have a better understanding of how to slow Knecht down than they did earlier in the season.

More From RTI: What Rick Barnes Said After Tennessee Defeated Tarleton State

In Knecht’s worst performance of the season against North Carolina State, the Wolfpack hedged screens hard and played extremely physical with him. Nearly every opponent is playing heavy in the gaps to take away driving lane while putting a heavy emphasis on the help defense meeting him at the basket and forcing him to make the extra pass.

“We try to move him around and put him in different positions, but he’s got a big target on his back,” Barnes said. “But he can’t let the fact he’s not making shot impact the other end of the court. I mean, he’s going to have to figure out how to get fouled. He’s going to have to figure out how he can run the court and get some easy buckets that way. He’s going to have to understand that he can go offensively, rebound (and) score that way. If he’s just going to wait and think he’s going score it every time he has him on his hand, he is going to be frustrated. And it’s going to affect him that way.”

Barnes admitted after Knecht’s six-point performance against Tarleton State game that the super senior isn’t completely healthy dating back to the ankle injury he suffered in his 37-point performance at North Carolina. That’s where Knecht’s five days home around Christmas and the Vols’ 12-day break before resuming play on Jan. 2 will be important.

But when Tennessee’s players return from Christmas break next week, getting Knecht back on track should be emphasis number one as the Vols prepare for their final non conference game and the start of SEC play.

If Knecht can’t get back on track then Tennessee will largely be staring down another season with the potential of struggling offensively every game out.

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