HONOLULU - Despite entering the game down a player and losing two more during it, the University of Tennessee men's basketball team defeated Syracuse, 73-56, Monday morning in the opening round of the Allstate Maui Invitational.
Fifth-year guard Dalton Kencht, who missed nearly eight minutes of the second half due to cramps, paced No. 7/8 Tennessee (4-0) with a game-high 17 points at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, as the Volunteers rallied back from an early eight-point deficit to hand the Orange their first loss ever in the prestigious tournament.
Syracuse (3-0) took a 19-11 lead at the 10:23 mark of the first half, but the Volunteers soon answered with seven straight points in 86 seconds to pull within one. That proved to be the start of a 19-6 run to close the half, as Tennessee claimed a 30-25 lead at the intermission.
Knecht scored half of Tennessee's points in the opening 20 minutes, shooting 5-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-4 beyond the arc and 2-of-3 at the line. At the other end, the Volunteers held the Orange to 28.6 percent (8-of-28) shooting, including a 20.0 percent (3-of-15) clip over the last 10 minutes of the frame.
Tennessee tallied the first six points of the second frame to go up by 11, 36-25, with 18:46 remaining and make it a 10-0 burst in just 1:58 dating back to the final 44 ticks of the first half. After the teams exchanged baskets, the Orange went on an 8-0 in 2:44 to make it a three-point game, 38-35, with 14:22 left.
The Orange trimmed the deficit to three thrice more, including with 8:35 to play, but never got any closer. Tennessee, meanwhile, closed the contest on a 12-0 run over the final 2:48 to win by the largest margin of the day, 17 points.
Knecht, who exited the game with 10:20 to go and did not return until the clock showed 2:24, finished 6-of-13, adding four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal.
Fifth-year guard Josiah-Jordan James notched his sixth-career double-double, logging 15 points and a game-best 12 points, the latter two shy of his top mark. He went 5-of-11 from the field and 2-of-4 on 3-pointers, while tallying two steals and zero turnovers.
Junior forward Jonas Aidoo gave the Volunteers two players with a double-double for the first time since November 2019, as he logged 14 points and 11 rebounds, just one and two shy, respectively, of his career highs. He scored 12 points in the second half en route to his second collegiate double-double.
Sophomore forward Chris Bell paced the Orange with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Sophomore guard Judah Mintz, who entered the day averaging 23.0 points and 5.0 assists per game, finished with 15 points and two assists, as Tennessee held him to a 4-of-14 field-goal mark.
The Volunteers concluded the affair with an 18-6 margin in points off turnovers and a 14-5 edge in second-chance points. They also posted a commanding 48-33 ledger on the glass, including a 13-6 mark on the offensive end.
Tennessee continues play in the Allstate Maui Invitational with a semifinal matchup Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET against either second-ranked Purdue or No. 11/10 Gonzaga at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, live on ESPN.
To keep up with the University of Tennessee men's basketball team on social media, follow @Vol_Hoops on Instagram and X/Twitter, as well as /tennesseebasketball on Facebook.