Olivier Nkamhoua tied his career high with 27 points, including 13 straight for Tennessee during a decisive span in the second half, and the fourth-seeded Volunteers beat 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 coach Jon Scheyer, charged with replacing Mike Krzyzewski, home after just two NCAA Tournament games. Not sure Coach K could have done any different to combat these Vols, who used a brand of “bully ball” to send the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (27-9) packing.
Nkamhoua put an exclamation mark on Tennessee’s victory with an emphatic slam with 1:15 remaining. It prompted Vols fans to start chanting 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.
Duke didn’t handle Tennessee’s physical style very well all afternoon. The Volunteers set the tone early, clearly wanting to push around Kyle Filipowski and get hands in the faces of guards Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor.
Vols big man Uros Plavsic picked up two offensive fouls in the first four minutes, both going against Filipowski. Duke’s 7-footer later took an elbow to his face and ended up with a small cut under his left eye.
Proctor struggled to inbound the ball several times, getting a five-second call, turning it over once and nearly giving it up again. Roach had even more issues, finishing the first half with three fouls and four turnovers.
The Vols, meanwhile, took much better care of the ball than they did in their first-round victory against Louisiana-Lafayette. They turned it over just nine times, their fewest since point guard Zakai Zeigler sustained a season-ending knee injury last month.
Proctor led Duke with 16 points. Roach and Filipowski chipped in 13 apiece.