Rick Barnes evaluates team's first-half performance, praises Dalton Knecht

On3 imageby:Grant Grubbs11/20/23


Tennessee finished the first half on a 9-1 run to secure a 30-25 lead over Syracuse before the break. Nonetheless, UT head coach Rick Barnes isn’t satisfied.

“We seemed like we waited forever to play,” Barnes said. “I thought we were both a bit slow to get going, but we buckled in. I liked the way our guys stayed with it. We had too many unforced mistakes and missed free throws, but we did close out well.”

Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht led all scorers in the first half, scoring 15 points while shooting 5-9 from the field and 3-4 from beyond the arc. Barnes would like to see Knecht be even more aggressive in the second half.

“I still want to see him be more aggressive,” Barnes said. “He had a couple of chances where he could have backed them down and still do some of the things we’d like him to do and he didn’t. But, he’s played a lot of minutes too, but he’ll he’ll figure it out.”

More on Dalton Knecht

Knecht’s hot start is no surprise. Through UT’s first three games, Knecht averaged 19.7 points per game, scoring at a 54% clip and knocking down 83.3 percent of his free-throws. Tennessee’s offense looked stagnant at times last season, they have gone for 80 or more points in each of their first three.

Knecht transferred to Tennessee this offseason from Northern Colorado. In the 2022-23 season, Knecht averaged 20.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game to lead the Bears as part of a breakout season. He also shot 38.1% from three-point territory.

Barnes was understandably thrilled to add Knecht to the roster.

“Dalton is just a terrific story of a guy whose hard work has enabled him to steadily improve his game,” Barnes said. “He’s grown nearly a foot since he started playing high school ball. And as he’s grown, he’s expanded his skill set as well. He’s a proven scorer and was one of the top offensive producers in the portal, so he immediately gives our team a boost in offensive firepower.”

According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, the Volunteers should enjoy Knecht while he’s still around.

“He’s a pro,” an NBA scout told Borzello. “He’s not going to be in as many ball-handling situations as he was at Northern Colorado. He’ll get more catch-and-shoot opportunities, he’ll play off other guys. He’s still finding opportunities — and the ball-handling and the athleticism comes into play in transition for him. He’s more efficient with better players around him.”