Tennessee opened the game on a 16-2 run, never let South Carolina closer than nine from that point, and won by 19. It was a wire-to-wire display of consistency from a team who struggles with said trait game-to-game. Consider the opponent: South Carolina drops to 1-9 in league play, today's loss their 13th straight to the Big Orange. It was a game Tennessee couldn't afford to lose, and the Vols left no doubt.
Jordan McRae hit five threes in the first half en route to 20 points at the break, coasting to the finish with 24. Tennessee, more than I can remember them doing all year, went all-in on their stars in the first half, and it cashed: McRae took 11 shots in the first 20 minutes, Stokes took nine, and no one else on the roster took more than three. Stokes finished with a 17/8, Jeronne Maymon added a 10/8, and the Vols wiped out a bad South Carolina team by shooting 52.8% from the floor while the Gamecocks shot 35.7%.
Home wins over bad teams do nothing for your RPI - the Vols came in and went out at 47 - but that can all change Tuesday night. Tennessee moves to 15-8 (6-4) with eight to go, but none will be bigger than #3 Florida in Knoxville in 72 hours. The Gators embarrassed Tennessee by 26 points in Gainesville, winners of 15 straight and in the hunt for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So many of Tennessee's narratives will weave together in one of the most important games of Cuonzo Martin's career.