Dalton Knecht stays red hot as No. 5 Tennessee downs Vanderbilt

Dalton Knecht continued his torrid scoring pace with 32 points as No. 5 Tennessee rallied from a halftime deficit to top Vanderbilt 75-62 on Saturday in a Southeastern Conference matchup in Nashville.

Knecht, who earlier this month became the first SEC player since Shaquille O’Neal to score at least 35 points in consecutive games, hit 13 of 21 shots from the field and 3 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line on Saturday. He scored 21 points in the second half and is averaging 32 over the past five games.

Santiago Vescovi added 12 points for the Volunteers (15-4, 5-1 SEC), while reserve Jordan Gainey and Zakai Zeigler each scored 10 points. Knecht’s hot hand helped Tennessee can 53.8 percent of its shots in the second half, when it outscored the Commodores 45-27.

Tyrin Lawrence scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Vanderbilt (5-14, 0-6), while Ezra Manjon chipped in 14 points. But the Commodores didn’t get enough help from elsewhere, making only 36.7 percent of their field-goal attempts and getting outrebounded 38-31.

Vanderbilt led for the first five-plus minutes of the second half before Knecht kept connecting. He scored 12 straight Tennessee points in one stretch, including a 3-pointer that put the Volunteers ahead for good at 51-48 with 11:57 left.

Tennessee entered the game as a 13 1/2-point favorite after routing an Alabama team last Saturday that rebounded to stop No. 8 Auburn in its next game. But it was Vanderbilt that looked and played like the better team in the first half.

Needing a big game from Manjon and Lawrence to have a realistic chance of pulling off the upset, the Commodores got both going early. Manjon scored eight of their first 10 points to set the tone.

When the Volunteers took a six-point lead later in the first half, Lawrence brought Vanderbilt back by connecting on a three-point play and hitting a 3-pointer during a 9-0 run. Manjon soon added four free throws, two coming when Tennessee coach Rick Barnes was whistled for a technical foul, and helped the Commodores take a 35-30 lead into the break.