Olivier Nkamhoua propels Tennessee basketball to win over Duke, Sweet 16 berth

ORLANDO, Fla. − Olivier Nkamhoua sat on the bench and watched Tennessee basketball's season end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

He wasn't watching Saturday. He was starring and he delivered a Sweet 16 berth with a storybook Saturday against Duke.

The No. 4-seeded Vols (25-10) punched a ticket to New York's Madison Square Garden with 65-52 win against the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (27-9) behind Nkamhoua's brilliant outing and a manhandling of a young Duke team. The senior forward scored 13 straight points in the second half to pair a tremendous game with Santiago Vescovi's tough shooting. Nkamhoua had 27 points.

Tennessee faces the winner of No. 9 Florida Atlantic and No. 16 Farleigh Dickinson on Thursday.


THROWBACK: Jon Scheyer on getting recruited by Rick Barnes ahead of Duke-Tennessee in March Madness

MOVING: Santiago Vescovi is an off-ball magician. Inside the mind of the Tennessee basketball guard.

Olivier Nkamhoua didn't miss his opportunity

Nkamhoua was sidelined last season with a left ankle injury suffered in mid-February. He missed the NCAA Tournament and UT's season-ending loss to Michigan.

He scored 23 points in the second half against Duke. He was 3-for-4 shooting on 3-pointers. He torched the Blue Devils during a stretch when UT's defense struggled to stop Duke guard Tyrese Proctor.

How Tennessee controlled Duke

Tennessee dictated the style of play from the opening tip Saturday. It hounded Duke defensively, seemingly surprising the Blue Devils with the intensity. UT fell behind 19-10 after an early lull, then took over on both ends.

Tennessee closed the first half on a 14-2 run, sparked by Vescovi's scoring and all-out team defense. UT forced 11 first-half turnovers and had a 13-2 edge in points off turnovers.

The Vols didn't let up apart from a brief lull early after halftime. Tennessee forced 15 Duke turnovers and only committed nine.

Jonas Aidoo played out of this world early

Tennessee center Uros Plavsic picked up two fouls in the first 2:12. Nkamhoua had two in the first 10 minutes. It was no matter.

Jonas Aidoo, a Durham, North Carolina, native, stepped in and played a dominant first half on both ends. The sophomore had two blocks in a short span, while chipping in consistent scoring. He had eight points and four rebounds in 13 first-half minutes. He also caused problems on Duke inbound passing attempts, forcing a five-second call and deflecting another.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Olivier Nkamhoua lifts Tennessee basketball to win over Duke, Sweet 16