ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Olivier Nkamhoua tied his career high with 27 points, including 13 straight for Tennessee during a decisive span in the second half, and the fourth-seeded Volunteers beat Duke 65-52 on Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019.
Santiago Vescovi added 14 points and five assists for Tennessee (25-10), which ended Duke’s 10-game winning streak and sent first-year coach Jon Scheyer — charged with replacing Mike Krzyzewski — home after just two NCAA Tournament games. Not sure Coach K could have done anything different to combat these Vols, who used a brand of “bully ball” to send the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (27-9) packing.
“We want to be physical,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We feel we’re at our best when we can do that.”
Nkamhoua made 10 of 13 shots and put an exclamation mark on Tennessee’s victory with an emphatic slam with 1:15 remaining. It prompted Vols fans to start chanting and sent Duke fans scrambling for the the exits.
Tennessee advanced to face Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Duke didn’t handle Tennessee’s imposing style very well all afternoon. The Volunteers set the tone early, clearly wanting to push around Kyle Filipowski and get their hands in the faces of guards Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor.
Vols big man Uros Plavsic picked up two offensive fouls in the first four minutes, both going against Filipowski. Duke’s 7-footer later took an elbow to his face and ended up with a small cut under his left eye.
Proctor struggled to inbound the ball several times, getting a five-second call, turning it over once and nearly giving it up again. Roach had even more issues, pickup up his fourth foul with 15 minutes remaining and finishing with five turnovers.
“We're always ready for a dogfight,” Nkamhoua said. “When we get people playing our game, that's an advantage for us.”
It also helped that the Vols took much better care of the ball than they did in their first-round victory against Louisiana-Lafayette. They turned it over just nine times, half as many as they did Thursday and their fewest since point guard Zakai Zeigler sustained a season-ending knee injury last month.
Proctor led Duke with 16 points. Roach and Filipowski chipped in 13 apiece.
Duke: The team's coming-of-age story ending in somewhat surprising fashion. With four highly touted freshmen in the starting lineup, Duke looked as if it was going to be a force in the tournament. But Tennessee's experience — the Vols start four seniors — proved to be the difference.
Tennessee: The Vols stumbled into the tournament having lost six of 10, but now they have a winning streak and have clearly re-established their identity as a big, physical, deep, defensive-minded team capable of giving anyone fits.
Duke: The Blue Devils turn their attention to what happens with their talent-laden team and the NBA. All eyes will be on freshmen Dereck Lively II, Filipowski and Proctor and their pending decisions.