March Madness: No. 2 Tennessee hangs on to beat No. 7 Texas 62-58

It's the second straight Sweet 16 appearance for the Volunteers

Tennessee hung on to beat Texas 62-58 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday despite a putrid shooting night.

The Volunteers looked like they were going to keep Texas at bay for much of the second half before the Longhorns made a late surge. Texas able to cut the lead to one with 34.2 seconds to go before Jonas Aidoo made two free throws with 24.3 seconds to go.

Texas had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer or go for a quick 2 and force Tennessee to make more free throws. But Max Abmas’ shot failed to draw iron with 10 seconds to go. Dalton Knecht got fouled after grabbing the rebound and then made it a two-possession game at the stripe.

Tyrese Hunter hit a 3 with 3.9 seconds to go, but Knecht made two more free throws to seal the game.

Knecht’s excellence at the free-throw line late in the game came as he struggled from the field. Knecht was 7 of 8 from the stripe and had 18 points despite shooting just 5 of 18. Tennessee shot just 34% overall and was 3 of 25 from behind the 3-point line.

Texas wasn’t much better thanks to Tennessee’s defense. The Longhorns shot 37% from the field and committed 17 turnovers. But they also didn’t let Tennessee run away in the second half despite the Vols’ domination for much of the final 20 minutes.

Tennessee led by 11 early in the second half but Texas quickly cut that lead and stayed within three possessions, even though it looked like the Longhorns were never going to truly threaten Tennessee.

That changed in a 36-second span late in the second half when Texas shrunk a 55-48 Tennessee lead into a 55-53 lead with 1:53 on the clock. But Texas couldn’t get the game tied after a terrific block by Dylan Disu with 1:28 to go.

Tennessee looks to get to the Elite Eight

It’s a big win for Tennessee coach Rick Barnes as he beats his former employer to get to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. It’s the first time Tennessee has gone to back-to-back Sweet 16s since 2007 and 2008.

The Sweet 16 has been the ceiling for Tennessee for a long, long time, however. Tennessee hasn’t made an Elite Eight since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and it’s fair to call the Volunteers underachievers in Barnes’ tenure.

Tennessee hasn’t been seeded any lower than No. 5 in each of the past six tournaments. But it’s made the Sweet 16 just three times in those six seasons. A season ago, UT was a No. 4 seed and favored against No. 9 Florida Atlantic in the Sweet 16. The Owls won that game 62-55 on their way to the Final Four.

In 2019, Tennessee was also a No. 2 seed but lost 99-94 to No. 3 Purdue in the Sweet 16. The 2024 tournament is Tennessee's next-best chance to finally play a fourth game. Will it actually happen?