Basket Vols earn mid-sized win on road

Marvin Westwestwords

Jumping to conclusions can be far-out fun if the crash-landing place is soft enough.

Tennessee basketball won at Wisconsin and old friend Harvey (and probably thousands of others) thinks that validates lofty projections for the Volunteers.

Illustrious media members who know almost everything picked the Vols to win the Southeastern Conference championship. That could happen.

ESPN expert analysts say the Vols are a Final Four team. That is never-never land – as in it never has happened and may not. Rick Barnes is thought to be an honorable man who does not cheat. What’s more, Tennessee does not have a dominant big man.

Two TV visionaries ignored the facts and went so far as to say the Vols will win the national title. I don’t bet but if I did, I’d take the field.

Transfer acquisition Dalton Knecht, 6-6 and 204, a full-grown man with the ball in his hands, was the winning edge at Wisconsin. He hit eight of 15 and scored 24. The Badgers didn’t have anybody who could handle him.

Dalton’s baseline drive and free throw with 7:33 to go was a strong statement that Tennessee could win.

Josiah-Jordan James had a good game, 14 points, six rebounds, four of eight from the floor, five of seven on free throws.

Tobe Awaka played only 12 minutes but was bigger than his 6-8 and 250 appears. He claimed six rebounds and scored six points when they really mattered.

Awaka put back an offensive rebound after the Badgers had reduced the deficit to three. That got Barnes’ attention. He called a play for Tobe and the large sophomore delivered another goal from the lane.

“I thought Tobe’s buckets were huge. I thought they were really big,” Barnes said. “I thought he gave us a lift, obviously rebounding the ball.”

The coach said Awaka needs more minutes. Maybe next time. Barnes is in charge.

Another big, Jonas Aidoo, was big around the goal. He scored 10 (five hits, three misses), seized seven rebounds, blocked four shots and caused several others to go astray.

New guard Jordan Gainey scored 10. Old reliable Santiago Vescovi had early foul trouble, recovered, contributed floor leadership, grabbed four rebounds but scored only five. Zakai Zeigler scored five, had three assists and three turnovers.

Ziggy played 18 minutes.

“In the last minute or so, someone said, ‘Coach, he’s at 18 minutes.’ And I said, well, he’s finishing this game because if I’d taken him out, he would’ve killed me.”

Tennessee got off to a strong start, led by 19-11 but was even at 21 with 9:01 to go. The Vols had a 10-2 run late in the half and led 43-35 at intermission. They shot 55.6 for that segment and hit five of nine three-pointers.

Wisconsin rallied to 54-53 but Tennessee regained control with a 10-3 hot streak. Knecht’s impressive play was a factor. The home team got no closer than six.

Barnes said the Badgers are “a really terrific basketball team.”

I think they are middle of the Big 10 (or whatever total membership is).

Teammates congratulated Knecht.

He said “I got to get better defensively.”

Barnes praised Cade Phillips, 6-9 freshman.

“He’s much stronger than he looks. I thought he really handled the physicality of a game against a very physical team.”

Barnes counted the victory as a double.

“Any road win is a big win. And especially against a team like that.”

Tennessee plays at home Tuesday night against Wofford. After that comes the Hawaii tournament.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is


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