The Vols transfer hit a free throw with 1.9 seconds remaining after Michigan State tied the game with a 3-pointer. He clinched the exhibition win in front of a deafening Spartans crowd that saw its team tie the game for the first time after trailing from the start.
There was a lot of Gainey for Tennessee. There was even more Dalton Knecht. It was the new guys and it went well for the No. 9 Vols.
Tennessee rode the transfers and a frantic start to a 89-88 win against No. 4 Michigan State at Breslin Center.
Knecht had a game-high 28 points and seven rebounds. Gainey had 20 as the transfers made up for UT not having Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler in the charity exhibition to support relief following the Maui wildfires in August.
MSU tied the game with an A.J. Hoggard 3-pointer with 5 seconds to play after a Josiah-Jordan James turnover on an inbound pass. Hoggard tied the game 88-88, but Gainey drew a foul bringing the ball up the court to attempt a game-winning shot.
Tennessee basketball transfers steal the show
Knecht had a runout dunk and Gainey had a free run for a layup in the opening minutes. The first half was a lot of that from the pair of Tennessee transfers, who had 29 of Tennessee’s 40 first-half points.
The duo sparked Tennessee to a 17-1 start that featured torrid shooting. UT opened 12-for-15 shooting and 5-for-6 on 3-pointers.
They never let up. Knecht hit a key 3-pointer after MSU cut UT’s lead to 35-28. Gainey hit four first-half 3-pointers. Knecht went behind-the-back in transiiton then dunked over Michigan State senior Malik Hall.
How Tennessee basketball approached not having Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler
Tennessee didn’t have guards Vescovi and Zeigler on Sunday. Both were preseason All-SEC selections. Vescovi is in Uruguay for a family matter, while Zeigler is returning from ACL surgery.
UT’s guard play featured a lot of points and a lot of turnovers. The guards had 12 of Tennessee’s 14 first-half turnovers. The Vols played much cleaner basketball in the second half.
The Vols started junior Jahmai Mashack at point guard with Gainey and Knecht. James started at the four with Jonas Aidoo at the five. Redshirt freshman Freddie Dilione got solid playing time but was up and down. Freshman Cameron Carr played sparingly early.
Tennessee’s forwards have foul trouble and that’s troubling
Tennessee’s pair of non-freshman forwards both struggled to stay out of foul trouble at MSU. Aidoo, a junior, had two fouls in 8:29, but played through the foul trouble and remained in the game. Sophomore Tobe Awaka had three first-half fouls after picking up two in a two-second span late in the half.
Both had high foul rates last season with Aidoo averaging 2.0 fouls in 18.3 minutes and Awaka averaging 1.4 in 10.3 minutes.
There were no foul-outs in the exhibition.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com 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: Tennessee basketball tops Michigan State behind Dalton Knecht