Dalton Knecht was confronted by two Missouri defenders as soon as he crossed halfcourt.
This halted the Tennessee basketball guard momentarily, but it didn’t hinder the Vols. Knecht leaped and delivered a two-handed pass to Tobe Awaka for a difficult layup.
The Vols regained their composure, securing an eight-point lead against last-place Missouri after a concerning period. Knecht exploded, and Awaka made his presence felt. No. 5 Tennessee managed to avoid a disaster against upset-focused Missouri, clinching a 72-67 victory at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday.
Knecht contributed 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Vols (20-6, 10-3 SEC) against the last-place Tigers (8-18, 0-13). Awaka achieved a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Dalton Knecht turned it on after a slow start
Knecht missed a corner 3-pointer off the corner of the backboard midway through the second half. He was 0-for-8 shooting at that point and had two points from a pair of first-half free throws. Then, as he has done so many times this season, he stepped up for Tennessee in a critical moment. He scored his first field goal with a jumper at 13:18. He then made a 3-pointer, and from there, he was unstoppable.
Between 10:16 and 8:23, Knecht made four field goals, including two 3-pointers, accumulating 15 second-half points.
It was a familiar sight for Knecht, who shone in the second halves of UT’s comeback victories at Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Jonas Aidoo, Tobe Awaka made significant contributions for Tennessee
Awaka was UT’s best player in the first half. He maintained his performance in the second half but was supported by Jonas Aidoo as Vols coach Rick Barnes employed the two-big lineup at intervals during the second half.
Awaka, who averages 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds, scored eight points and made six rebounds in the first half. He surpassed his previous career high of 11 points by achieving 18.
Aidoo scored two of the first three UT field goals in the second half. He secured two putbacks, one tying the game at 46-46 and the other giving UT a 49-48 lead. Aidoo also had four blocks.
Tennessee had another slow start on the road
Tennessee did not make a field goal until Jordan Gainey picked up a loose ball and ran free for a layup at the 15:31 mark of the first half, putting UT ahead 2-1. The team did not make another field goal until Jahmai Mashack hit a jumper at the 11:52 mark.
The Vols had another sluggish offensive performance, experiencing a slow start on the road. They failed to make a single 3-pointer in the first half, missing all nine attempts. UT shot 30% from the field, with only Awaka scoring more than four points.
Tennessee hosts Texas A&M on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Vols suffered an 85-69 defeat in College Station, Texas, on Feb. 10.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.