HONOLULU (AP) — Dalton Knecht scored 17 points and Josiah-Jordan James and Jonas Aidoo each recorded a double-double to lead No. 7 Tennessee to a 73-56 win over Syracuse on Monday in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.
The Volunteers (4-0) shot 50% (13 of 26) from the field in the second half to pull away from the Orange (3-1), who shot 35% (21 of 60) for the game.
Knecht, one of three fifth-year players for Tennessee, had 15 points by halftime. He left the game at the 10:20 mark of the second half with an apparent left leg injury, but returned to the contest in the closing minutes.
James had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Aidoo had 14 points with 11 boards.
“It was a really tough, hard fought game," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "I thought our older guys — guys that have been in a lot of big games — were locked in and really good for us."
Tennessee out-rebounded Syracuse, 48 to 33.
“Coach preaches rebounding the ball and that’s the main thing. If we rebound the ball, we win the game,” Aidoo said.
The Volunteers shot 20 of 27 from the free-throw line, while the Orange were just 8 of 17.
Chris Bell scored 16 points and Judah Mintz had 15 to lead Syracuse.
“I thought we played well for a big part of the game defensively,” Syracuse coach Adrian Autry said. “Overall, I thought we competed and battled. We've got to get better rebounding the ball.”
Syracuse held a 24-21 lead after a Bell 3-pointer from the left wing with about six minutes remaining in the first half, but missed its last six shots from the field before the intermission.
Tennessee went on a 9-1 run over that stretch and took a 30-25 lead at the break.
Tennessee will at least match its best finish in the Maui Invitational, when it claimed fourth place back in 2004. The Volunteers improved to 4-6 all-time in the event.
Syracuse took its first loss under first-year coach Adrian Autry, who was named as the successor to Jim Boeheim in March. Autry played for the Orange in the 1980 Maui Invitational. Boeheim retired after 47 seasons as coach at Syracuse.
Prior to Monday’s game, Tennessee announced that redshirt freshman guard Freddie Dilione V will not be available for the entirety of the tournament due to a partial tear of his left plantar fascia. Dilione has appeared in three games this season and is averaging 7.3 minutes per contest.
A FIRST FOR ’CUSE
Syracuse had never lost a game in the Maui Invitational before Monday. It won the tournament in 1990, 1998 and mostly recently in 2013. The Orange are now 9-1 in the event.
Tennessee will play either No. 2 Purdue or No. 11 Gonzaga in a semifinal Tuesday.
Syracuse will face the loser between the Boilermakers and the Bulldogs in a consolation game Tuesday.
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