Dalton Knecht, No. 4 Tennessee fend off No. 14 Alabama to take solo lead in SEC

Rick Barnes is now in full control of the SEC.

Dalton Knecht and No. 4 Tennessee rallied in the second half on Saturday night to grab an 81-74 win over No. 14 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The win broke a tie with the Crimson Tide and gave the Vols the solo lead in the SEC standings with just two games to go in the regular season.

Tennessee jumped up early and seemed poised to run away with the game in the opening minutes. The Vols quickly mounted a double-digit lead in Tuscaloosa, but then completely stalled in the final nearly four minutes of the period. Alabama ended the first half on a huge 12-0 run, which gave it a 41-39 lead at the break.

Tennessee quickly took the lead again in the second half on a Knecht 3-pointer, which was his first of the game. The Vols, however, quickly stalled. Alabama surged ahead and held Tennessee without a field goal for nearly six minutes in the second half, which allowed it to push ahead to a six-point lead by the midway point.

Yet Alabama finally went cold and went nearly nine full minutes without a field goal themselves. It wasn’t until a Mark Sears layup with 1:15 left in the game that the streak was finally broken, but by then Tennessee held a slight three-point lead. From there, Tennessee hit six free throws and held Alabama to just one more layup down the stretch to grab the seven-point win.

Zakai Zeigler led Tennessee with 17 points in the win despite shooting 5-of-18 from the field. Knecht added 13 points and five rebounds, and he went a rough 1-of-7 from the 3-point line. Tennessee shot just 36% from the field as a team. The Vols have now won six straight games. They’ll head to South Carolina next before closing the season against Kentucky next Saturday.

Dalton Knecht and Tennessee now hold the solo lead in the SECDalton Knecht and Tennessee now hold the solo lead in the SEC

Dalton Knecht and Tennessee now hold the solo lead in the SEC. (Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images)

Mark Sears led Alabama with 22 points and six assists, and Aaron Estrada added 16 points. Nick Pringle added 13 points and nine assists off the bench. Despite the loss, Alabama has won four of its last six games. It’ll take on Florida next this week before closing the regular season against Arkansas next Saturday.

While Tennessee now has the conference lead, No. 18 South Carolina is just half game behind it in the standings and both No. 16 Kentucky and No. 11 Auburn are within two games. A lot can change over the next week, but the Vols now have their future in their own hands.

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