HomeSportsDalton Knecht, No. 4 Tennessee, fends off No. 14 Alabama to take...

Dalton Knecht, No. 4 Tennessee, fends off No. 14 Alabama to take solo lead in SEC

Rick Barnes now has complete control of the SEC.

Dalton Knecht and No. 4 Tennessee came back in the second half on Saturday night to earn an 81-74 victory over No. 14 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The win broke a tie with the Crimson Tide and gave the Vols the solo lead in the SEC standings with just two games remaining in the regular season.

Tennessee jumped up early and looked ready to run away with the game in the opening minutes. The Vols quickly built a double-digit lead in Tuscaloosa, only to come to a complete standstill in the final nearly four minutes of the period. Alabama closed the first half on a big 12-0 run, giving it a two-point lead at halftime.

Tennessee quickly regained the lead in the second half on a Knecht 3-pointer, his first of the game. However, the Vols quickly came to a standstill. Alabama shot ahead and held Tennessee without a field goal for nearly six minutes in the second half, allowing it to open to a six-point lead at the half.

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Yet Alabama eventually went cold and went almost nine full minutes without a field goal. It wasn’t until a Mark Sears layup with 1:15 left in the game that the streak was finally broken, but by then Tennessee had a slight three-point lead. From there, Tennessee hit six free throws and held Alabama to just one layup down the stretch to take the seven-point win.

Zakai Zeigler led Tennessee with 17 points in the win despite shooting 5-for-18 from the field. Knecht added 13 points and five rebounds, and he went a raw 1-for-7 from the three-point line. Tennessee shot just 36% from the field as a team. The Vols have now won six games in a row. They head to South Carolina next week before closing out the season next Saturday against Kentucky.

Mark Sears led Alabama with 22 points and six assists, and Aaron Estrada added 16 points. Nick Pringle added 13 points and nine assists off the bench. Despite the loss, Alabama has won four of its last six games. It will take on Florida next week before concluding the regular season against Arkansas next Saturday.

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While Tennessee now has the lead, No. 18 South Carolina is just half a game behind in the standings and both No. 16 Kentucky and No. 11 Auburn are within two games. A lot could change in the coming week, but the Vols now have their future in their own hands.

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