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Three Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Outlasts Creighton To Advance To Elite Eight

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

DETROIT, Mich. — Tobe Awaka was a physical beast inside. Dalton Knecht hit clutch shot. Zakai Zeigler was in complete control. Josiah-Jordan James made huge play after huge play on both ends.

Tennessee’s team delivered over-and-over against Creighton’s stars as the Vols’ outlasted the Blue Jays 82-75 on Friday night.

Here’s three quick takeaways as Tennessee is headed to the Elite Eight for the second time in program history.

Two Of The Nation’s Best Wings Collide

Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht and Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman are two transfer portal’s biggest success stories and two of the nation’s best wings.

They collided on Friday night and showed off their offensive prowess in the Sweet 16. Both players were the teams primary offensive option and the other committed an abundance of resources to try and slow them down.

Josiah-Jordan James spent most his night chasing around Scheierman and did a fantastic job defending him. The 6-foot-7 scoring wing was impressive scoring 25 points on eight-of-19 shooting from the field but most of his baskets came with Tennessee losing him in transition or another Vol guarding him.

Knecht had a solid but not great first half, scoring 10 points on four-of-10 shooting while struggling to get his mid range jumper going. Scheierman defended Knecht and did a solid job but it was center Ryan Kalkbrenner camping out in the paint that made life very difficult for Knecht and all of Tennessee’s guards.

The Vols’ All-American came up huge in the second half including a number of clutch triples that stabilized Tennessee when Creighton was making its second half run. Knecht finished with 26 points, five assists and six rebounds.

More From RTI: Former Tennessee Power Forward Re-Enters The Transfer Portal

The Run That Changed The Game

Neither team could find any separation through the game’s first 21 minutes. It was a back-and-forth game where neither team led by more than four points.

But then Tennessee went on a run that changed the game. The Vols’ ball pressure started giving Creighton issues and led to a pair of transition buckets. The first was a Knecht layup. Then Knecht did what Rick Barnes has been pleading him to do all season— give it up in transition.

He found Jahmai Mashack for a wide open layup making an 8-0 run in 2:29 as Greg McDermott took a timeout.

Tennessee wasn’t done.

Knecht scored in transition again then he found Zakai Zeigler for a triple next possession. Mashack scored on a put back and then Josiah-Jordan James hit a triple. It made it a 10-0 run in 2:21 and McDermott needed another timeout.

In total, it was an 18-0 run in 4:50 that gave Tennessee a 16 point lead. Creighton didn’t go away and made made runs of its own but the run completely flipped the game.

Bench Production And Turnovers The Difference

Two advantages that Tennessee had entering the matchup was that they had a deeper bench and did a lot better job of forcing turnovers than the Blue Jays.

That depth was tested early. Santiago Vescovi missed the game with the flu and both Mashack and Jordan Gainey picked up two fouls in the first half. Freshmen Freddie Dilione and Cam Carr were both thrust into first half minutes and Carr hid a massive corner three to break up the run.

Gainey played one of his best games all season. He was strong on the defensive end and confident on the offensive end where he scored seven points on three-of-fivr shooting from the field. Overall, Tennessee’s bench outscored Creighton’s 15-4.

Creighton only committed nine turnovers but they came at a huge time including during the Vols’ 18-0 run. Tennessee only turned the ball over four times and outscored the Blue Jays 10-0 off turnovers and 18-5 in transition.

Bench production and turnovers. Those two things proved to be the difference.

Final Stats

Up Next

Tennessee advances to the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history. The Vols will face Purdue on Sunday in Detroit. The tipoff time is to be determined.

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