Tennessee Volunteers vs. Norfolk State Spartans Pick & Prediction JANUARY 2nd 2024

The same guy who scored 37 points in Tennessee’s loss to North Carolina on Nov. 29 has totaled just 15 in his last three games.

Dalton Knecht is in a slump and coach Rick Barnes wants to help him get out of it, starting Tuesday night when the fifth-ranked Volunteers host Norfolk State in a non-conference game in Knoxville, Tenn.

“They did what we’ve told him all along people are going to do,” Barnes said of opponents’ new approach to Knecht. “He doesn’t have to score it. He just needs to make good plays. He’s capable of doing it because there’s nothing he can’t do.”

The Northern Colorado transfer was averaging 19.2 ppg through nine games before his slump, which deepened in his team’s 65-46 home win over Tarleton State on Dec. 21. Knecht managed just six points after a 2-of-7 performance from the floor.

Knecht still leads the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game, and he’s making 45.5 percent of his shots. Impressive numbers, but Barnes wants to see Knecht contribute more in other areas while his shot is finding the rim. Knecht averaged 7.2 rebounds last year at Northern Colorado and is a capable passer.

“If he’s just going to wait and think he’s going to score it every time he has it on his hand, he is going to be frustrated,” Barnes said.

Josiah-Jordan James is averaging 11.6 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds for Tennessee (9-3). Jonas Aidoo is chipping in 11.0 and 6.9, respectively, more than doubling his scoring average from last season.

The Volunteers enter Tuesday’s contest on a five-game winning streak, including victories over then-No. 20 Illinois and North Carolina State. With a veteran backcourt of Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi pestering opponents and taking care of the ball, Tennessee averages more than 1.5 assists for every turnover.

Meanwhile, Norfolk State (9-6) returns to game action for the first time since an 84-65 thumping of South Dakota State on Dec. 21 in El Paso, Texas, at the Don Haskins Sun Bowl tournament.

The Spartans shot 58.8 percent from the floor and 57.9 percent from the 3-point line and saw four of their players score in double figures. Jack Doumbia led the way with 17 points — 10 above his average — while George Beale nearly doubled his 7.5 ppg average with 14 off the bench vs. the Jackrabbits.

Jamarii Thomas, who leads the team in scoring at 18.0 points per game, and Allen Betrand each added 13 points in one of the team’s best wins of the year.

“Norfolk State will be in the NCAA Tournament,” UTEP coach Joe Golding said after his Miners edged the Spartans 67-65 on Dec. 20. “That is a good team, a veteran team.”

This will be the first meeting of these programs.

–Field Level Media

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