Tennessee basketball survives and advances to Sweet Sixteen

Tennessee basketball survives and advances to Sweet Sixteen with their 62-58 win over the Texas Longhorns.

Texas v Tennessee
Texas v Tennessee / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

Defense was at a premium in Tennessee's second-round matchup against Texas. The Vols' restrictive defense forced the Longhorns into turnovers and bad shots. That's not without Tennessee giving away their fair share of turnovers and missed shots throughout the game.

If Tennessee had just hit the open shots, they could have put this game away by halftime, but missing open shots, opportunities in the paint, and bricking threes like there's no tomorrow allowed Texas to hang in the game and almost complete the comeback in the final minute.

These two coaching staffs know each other very well, and it was evident as each team worked to get an early advantage. Rick Barnes spent 17 years at Texas, with Longhorns coach Rodney Terry spending many of those years as Barnes' assistant.

Similar coaching philosophies, focusing on defense, gave us a great defensive battle and one of the worst offensive performances by two tournament teams I have ever seen. Neither team could make more than two shots within the game's first five minutes. Tennessee finally eclipsed the 10-point mark eight minutes into the game. 

With the game focused on defense and physicality, Tennessee found itself in some early foul trouble. Tobe Awaka came out of the gates playing really well but quickly earned two fouls and a third first-half foul a few minutes later. 

Zakai Zeigler and Jahmai Mashack were two players who came out of the gates ready to play their best defense of the season. They were all over the place, defending just about everyone in burnt orange on the floor. Zeigler also joined Tennessee's 1,000-point club in a less-than-impressive offensive night.

Tennessee tried to get the three-point shot going throughout the game, but it was not hitting for anyone. The Vols started the night 0-for-11 from three. They finished the night shooting 3-for-25, which is only 12.0%. That is the worst shooting performance from a winning team in NCAA Tournament history.

Texas also struggled with shooting, which kept the door open for the Vols. This was a game I genuinely didn't think either team would reach 50 points, but believe it or not, both teams were able to reach that mark after missing what felt like 90% of their shots. 

Tennessee also out-fouled Texas in the second half with eight fouls to Texas' two fouls at one point late in the second half. When it came down to the wire after a missed free throw from Jonas Aidoo, Texas' defensive strategy was to intentionally send the Vols to the free throw line and make them win by doing the one thing they couldn't do all night: make shots.

For a team that has shot so poorly throughout this game, this strategy seemed like it was going to win Texas the game while it was happening. When your opponents can't make wide-open shots, force their worst shooter to make high-pressure shots. That's exactly what they did.

After a handful of intentional fouls, Texas sent Jonas Aidoo to the free-throw line. Aidoo made only 62.6% of his free throws this year and was tasked with extending Tennessee's lead from one point to three. He did just that, knocking down both free throws and forcing Texas to shoot a three to tie or a quick two.

Texas rushed a three, took a bad shot, and Dalton Knecht rebounded, effectively ended the game. the game. He pushed the lead to two possessions, and there wasn't enough time for Texas to respond and at least tie the game.

Knecht finished the night with 18 points and nine rebounds. It wasn't the best night for the SEC Player of the Year, but it was enough. He shot 1-for-8 from three and 5-for-18 from the field, so it was an uncharacteristic night for Knecht. I would rather him and everyone else get out all of their bad shooting habits now before they need to make some clutch shots down the stretch in the next two rounds.

Tennessee fans react to Vols' abysmal shooting in Texas win. Tennessee fans react to Vols' abysmal shooting in Texas win. dark. Next

The Vols advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the third time under Barnes' leadership. They will face No. 3 Creighton on Friday for a spot in the Elite Eight. If the Vols win, they will match the deepest postseason run in program history.