March Madness: Tennessee uses strong defensive effort to knock Duke from NCAA tournament

Duke entered Saturday’s second round NCAA tournament game vs. Tennessee on a roll.

The No. 5 seed in the East, the Blue Devils won their final six regular season games, cruised to an ACC tournament championship and then blasted Oral Roberts in the first round.

But Jon Scheyer’s young Blue Devils could not match the strength and physicality of Tennessee.

The Volunteers, the East’s 4th seed, used a ferocious defensive effort and an uncharacteristically strong outside shooting performance to eliminate the overmatched Blue Devils and move onto the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019.

In the 65-52 win in Orlando, Tennessee connected on 42.9% of its 3-point attempts while forcing 15 turnovers and out-manning Duke on the glass. Duke ranks seventh nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (35.3%) but corralled only six of its misses in the loss.

There wasn’t much offense early on, but Tennessee closed out the first half on a 14-2 run to take control of the game. On multiple occasions, Duke looked poised to significantly cut into the lead but Tennessee always responded.

The Vols got timely shooting from Olivier Nkamhoua and Santiago Vescovi, particularly in the second half. Nkamhoua had one of the best games of his career. The senior from Finland posted 27 points in the win, tying his career high over his four years in Knoxville. All but four of his 27 points came in the second half.

Vescovi, meanwhile, had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. All four of his made field goals came from 3.

Now in the Sweet 16, Tennessee will face the winner of Sunday’s second-round matchup between No. 9 Florida Atlantic and No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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