Vols, Aztecs Exude Domination Claiming Sweet 16 Berths

Ken Cross

March 20, 2023 at 8:14 am.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Domination was the most accurate definition of Tennessee’s 65-52 win over Duke in Amway Center on Saturday.

The physical and challenging play of the Volunteers took over midway through the first half and the Blue Devils struggled as their youth couldn’t handle the Vols’ aggression.

“We’re a tough, hard-nosed team,” explained Vols forward Olivier Nkamhoua. “That’s how we play everybody. Knowing that they had a lot of freshmen, we knew that if we come in and apply more pressure and be tough and physical, then they would have to deal with it.”

As the Volunteers’ defense scored 18 points off of 15 Duke turnovers and Tennessee took a 15-2 advantage from its bench, the Vols’ approach was consistently strenuous throughout the game.

“It was a total team effort and just really proud of our guys for what we have gone through the last month,” said Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes.

Of course, Barnes was talking about the numerous injuries that his team had been hit with during the season as point guard Zakai Ziegler injured his ACL two weeks ago and is out for the season.

“We feel like we’re at our best when we can do that,” Barnes said of his team’s physicality. “Really do. We know we play in a league where there’s a premium placed on physicality, certainly, but we wanted to be physical.”

The Vols held Duke to 43 percent from the floor as they were only 6-of-22 from behind the three-point line. Tennessee also out-rebounded the Blue Devils, 35-30, and scored 12 points off of 12 offensive rebounds.

“When we get guys stuck and we start making players do things that they’re not used to doing, we wear them down and we just keep wearing them down,” explained Nkamhoua.

The 6-8 native of Helsinki, Finland, was the key offensive weapon as he scored a career-high 27 points in making 10-of-13 field goals. He scored 15 points in a 4:27 stretch in the second half as his triple with 4:16 to play gave the Vols a 59-48 advantage.

Jonas Aidoo was able to spark Tennessee’s offense late in the first half when his six points helped the Volunteers close their halftime lead to 27-21. He grabbed a miss from guard Tyreke Key for a slam dunk in that process.

“They’re really good, and credit them, they shoot almost 50 (percent) from three,” said Duke head coach Jon Scheyer. “Nkamhoua had one of his best games, maybe his best game ever. You’ve got to tip your hat to him.”

Guard Tyrese Proctor led Duke with 16 points, while point guard Jeremy Roach was in foul trouble most of the evening and only netted 13.

The win allowed the Vols to accept their Sweet 16 berth, matching up with Florida Atlantic.


San Diego State Strikes Paladins

Early to Cruise to Win

The Furman Paladins had the attention of Coach Brian Dutcher and his San Diego State Aztecs early Saturday afternoon as SDSU used a 15-0 run midway through the first half in order to roll to a 75-52 decision.

The Paladins had a 68-67 come-from-behind win over Virginia on Thursday and that proved to be another key that had the attention of Dutcher and his coaching staff.

Guard Micah Parrish scored 11 of his game-high 16 points in that run as he proved to be instrumental in being a tough matchup for the Paladins.

“It was really my teammates finding me in transition,” said Parrish. “We just try to find an open guy. Each game might not be your game, but I guess today was mine and my teammates just kept finding me, so I have just got to thank my teammates.”

Guards Darrion Trammell and Lamont Butler scored 13 and 12 points each and Matt Bradley posted 10 for the Aztecs, who shot 50 percent from the floor and out rebounded Furman, 41-24.

Like Tennessee, San Diego State took control of the game with a much more physical approach on both ends of the floor.

For the Aztecs, it meant using an opportunity to get Keshad Johnson and Nathan Mensah in rhythm in the post. Both players were 3-for-3 from the field as Johnson had seven points, while Mensah scored six. The guards were able to get to the rim as well as San Diego State outscored Furman, 40-16, in the paint.

“Obviously, we hang our hat on defense,” commented Dutcher. “That’s the one thing we do every game. Then when we get the opportunity, we start making shots and play good offensively, then we’re very good.”

The Aztecs pushed the lead to 49-30 with 15:23 to play as the 10-5 run by San Diego State was punctuated with a three-pointer from the left by Trammell and a slam by Butler which allowed San Diego State to move its lead to as many as 26 before the game ended.

The Aztecs held Furman to 32 percent from the floor as the Paladins made only 6-of-26 three-point field goals.

“You should play your best basketball at the end of the season,” said Dutcher. “We are playing our best basketball at the end of the season and that’s what we have always done at San Diego State basketball.”

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