Tennessee gives Duke early March Madness exit to clinch Sweet 16 berth at MSG

Olivier Nkamehwa tied his career high with 27 points, including 13 straight for Tennessee during a crucial second half stretch, and the fourth-ranked Volunteers upset Duke 65-52 on Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019.

Tennessee (25-10) ended Duke’s 10-game winning streak and sent first-year head coach John Scheer, replacing Mike Krzyzewski, home after just two NCAA tournament games. I’m not sure Coach K could have done anything differently to battle these Vols, who used a brand of “bully ball” to send the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (27-9) packages.

Nkamhoua put an exclamation mark on Tennessee’s victory with an emphatic knockdown with 1:15 remaining. It prompted the Vols fans to start cheering and sent many Duke fans toward the exits.

Tennessee advanced to face Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Jahmai Mashack #15 and Santiago Vescovi #25 of the Tennessee Volunteers speak on the court during halftime against the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.
The win seals Tennessee’s ticket to the Sweet 16.
Mike Ehrman/Getty Images

Duke didn’t handle Tennessee’s physical style well all afternoon. The Volunteers set the tone early, clearly wanting to push Kyle Filipowski and get their hands in the faces of guards Jeremy Roach and Therese Proctor.

Uros Plavsic committed two offensive fouls in the first four minutes, both against Filipovski. Later, he took Duke’s 7-foot elbow to the face and ended up with a small gash under his left eye.

Proctor struggled to field the ball several times, got a five-second call, turned it over once and nearly surrendered it again. Roach had more issues, finishing the first half with three fouls and four turnovers.

Duke center Kyle Filipowski (30) is benched after sustaining a cut under his eye during the first half of a second-round college basketball game against Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Orlando, Florida.
Duke star Kyle Filipowski sustained a cut under his eye during the game.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Meanwhile, the Vols took much better care of the ball than they did in their first round victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. They’ve only handed it nine times, the fewest since point guard Zakai Ziegler suffered a season-ending knee injury last month.

Proctor led Duke with 16 points. Roach and Filipovsky divided into 13 pieces.

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