Olivier Nkamhoua scored 23 of his career-best-tying 27 points in the second half to help No. 4 seed Tennessee notch a 65-52 victory over No. 5 Duke in NCAA Tournament East Region play on Saturday afternoon at Orlando, Fla.
Santiago Vescovi made four 3-pointers while scoring 14 points as the Volunteers (25-10) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019. Nkamhoua made 10 of 13 field-goal attempts, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
Tennessee will face either ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic or 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday in New York.
Tyrese Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils (27-9), who were eliminated in the second round for the first time since 2017. Kyle Filipowski added 13 points and eight rebounds and Jeremy Roach also scored 13 points.
Duke was plagued by 15 turnovers in coach Jon Scheyer’s first NCAA Tournament since replacing Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski.
The Blue Devils connected on 42.9 percent of their shots, including just 6 of 22 from behind the arc.
Tennessee shot 40.4 percent from the field and made 9 of 21 from 3-point range. The Volunteers held an 18-7 edge in points off turnovers.
Nkamhoua scored 13 straight Tennessee points in the second half to help his club hold off the Blue Devils’ bids to rally.
Duke pulled within two points early in the second half before the Volunteers responded with a 11-4 run. Vescovi made two 3-pointers in 38 seconds as Tennessee took a 44-35 lead with 11:54 left.
The Blue Devils were within 46-42 on Filipowski’s basket with 9:10 remaining before Nkamhoua scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer, to push the lead to nine with 8:06 to play.
Nkamhoua also scored the next eight Tennessee points, with his trey pushing the lead to 59-48 with 4:16 remaining.
Nkamhoua’s ferocious putback dunk made it 63-52 with 1:15 left and Nkamhoua added two free throws with 48.8 seconds left as Tennessee finished off the victory in style.
“This is what we do. We’ve been in these kind of fights all year,” Nkamhoua said. “We lost some, we won some and we weathered the storm all year.”
Nkamhoua’s second-half splurge came after he was limited to six first-half minutes due to foul trouble.
“They didn’t let me play in the first half so I had to get all my action in the second,” Nkamhoua said.
The Volunteers finished the first half with a 14-2 run to take a 27-21 lead. Tennessee forced Duke into 11 first-half turnovers.
The Blue Devils used a 9-0 run to hold a 19-13 advantage after Filipowski’s basket with 8:05 left in the half.
Vescovi ignited the Volunteers’ burst with five straight points and Jonas Aidoo had six points, including a layup with three seconds remaining in the half.
Josiah-Jordan James drained a 3-pointer to start the second half to push the Tennessee lead to nine. But Roach and Proctor each scored five points during a 10-3 run as Duke pulled within 33-31 with 15:40 remaining in the game.
–Field Level Media