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Dalton Knecht scores 39 to lead No. 6 Tennessee past Florida

By Al Lesar

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Dalton Knecht scored a career-high 39 points and had 8 rebounds to lead No. 6 Tennessee past Florida 85-66 on Tuesday.

Jonas Aidoo had 19 points and a team-high 10 rebounds to help the Volunteers (13-4, 3-1 SEC) win their 12th straight at home.

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“Anytime Jonas is aggressive and locked in, he’s a major factor,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “The guys are starting to understand each other where they need the ball.”

Knecht averaged 32 points in two games last week as he captured SEC Co-Player of the Week.

“I’m just playing with confidence,” Knecht said. “It’s a lot easier with my teammates. It’s a lot of hard work. My teammates make it super easy.”

Knecht shot 13 of 23 overall including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and made all nine of his free throws.

“He’s been doing that to everybody,” said Florida coach Todd Golden. “He did a lot in transition and broken plays. We weren’t good enough to protect the rim.”

The Gators (11-6, 1-3), who haven’t won in Knoxville since 2014, were led by Walter Clayton Jr. with 16 points and Riley Kugel with 12. Tyrese Samuel had 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds and Zyon Pullin scored 11.

“I thought we got our opportunities at the rim,” Golden said. “We didn’t match their physicality. [The Vols] play with an edge at home.”

Florida was limited to 29% shooting from the field (20 of 68).

“They’re an outstanding offensive team,” Barnes said of the Gators. “They’re one of the fastest teams in the country. When you hold a team to 29%, you’re doing a good job.”

Knecht hit 9 of 10 field goals — including three 3-pointers — and scored 22 points in the first half as Tennessee jumped to a 44-32 halftime lead. A 12-3 run midway through the half gave the Vols some breathing room. Kugel had 10 to lead the Gators in the half.

“We’re just feeding off the crowd,” said Knecht. “It starts with our defense: Make a stop and score.”

Florida could not make up the deficit.

“You don’t want to fall behind against this team,” Golden said. “They’re very disciplined. They’re not going to make mistakes.”

The game started two hours early because of dangerous weather conditions.

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Top takeaways

Florida: The loss to Tennessee started a stretch of tough games for the Gators. They will play what figures to be four more Quadrant 1 games, considered in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, over the next two weeks. Florida is 0-5 this season in Q1 games and 2-19 over the last two seasons.

Tennessee: The Vols are giving up eight more points a game (66.0-57.9) compared to last season, but they are scoring eight more points a game (78.7-70.8). The focus for Barnes has been consistency. The Vols have struggled with that all season and it continues to haunt them at different times.

Up next

Florida: The Gators have another road game Saturday night against Missouri.

Tennessee: The Vols will remain at home Saturday for a battle with Alabama.

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