Dalton Knecht Takes Over to Lift Tennessee Volunteers over Auburn 92-84

It looked like the Tennessee Volunteers were losing momentum to the Auburn Tigers, and then Dalton Knecht decided to score 25 points in the last 12 minutes of the game.

South Carolina v Tennessee
South Carolina v Tennessee / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

The Tennessee Volunteers came into Wednesday night leading the SEC with four games remaining in the season. The Vols' matchup against the Auburn Tigers is the first of four top-25 matchups for the Vols to end the season.

It was a matchup between Bruce Pearl's blue-collar Tigers and Rick Barnes' gritty Volunteers. This matchup has brought some great games in recent years, and this year's iteration did not disappoint as the Vols defeated the Tigers 92-84.

Previous Vols-Tigers matchups highlighted each team's defensive prowess, which was the expectation again in this matchup. Auburn came into this game with the 5th-best defense, and Tennessee had the 2nd-best defense in the country. While each defense brought the physicality, both teams still found a way to score throughout the game.

Both defenses were the highlight early in this game. Each team had their fair share of blocked shots, steals, and physical presence in the paint. The storyline in the first half was Tennessee's offense vs Auburn's defense in the paint. Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka took it to the Tigers early and were the main source of Tennessee's offense at the start of the game.

If Aidoo and Awaka can bring consistent production moving forward, Tennessee could be legitimate national championship contenders. Awaka has embraced his physicality, which could be a valuable asset for the Vols down low during the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

While each team's defense was the focus of this game, both teams brought physicality to each end of the court and could put up points consistently throughout the game. It looked like Auburn was more physical than the Vols in the second half, draining them and shutting them down offensively. Tennessee hit a scoring drought during the second half, where they shot 3-for-11 at one point.

Nothing went right for the Vols in the first ten minutes of the second half. Every jump ball, bounce off the rim, and foul call seemed to go to Auburn. There wasn't much anyone not named Knecht could do besides swing and miss on the offensive side of the court.

When the Vols couldn't get anything to go their way, they gave the ball to the man who made everything go his way. Dalton Knecht took over this game around the 10-minute mark of the second half and showed why he is the best player in the SEC and one of the best players in the country. Very few players could go on the run he went on: draining deep threes, fadeaway jumpers, and physical baskets in the paint.

Knecht went into halftime with 12 points and ended the game with 39 points, with 25 points coming in the last 12 minutes of the game. We have seen Knecht get hot and go on some crazy runs this season, but we have yet to see him take over a game like he did against the Tigers.

Other Vols had moments throughout the game, like Aidoo, Zakai Zeigler, and Awaka, but no one affected the Tigers' defense like Knecht when the Vols and 20,000 Tennessee fans needed him to light a fire in the offense.

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Tennessee will now get ready to face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday at 7 PM, with a chance to separate themselves from the Tide in the SEC race. Look for the Vols to continue bringing the physicality they brought in their win over Auburn, and Knecht just put on another clinic.