SEC play is stressful. Tennessee played another nail-biter last night in South Carolina, edging the Gamecocks in the end. The win got the Vols to 4-3 in the conference and 13-5 overall. Here are three things that stuck out to me.
Tennessee survived the hot-shooting Gamecocks with outstanding execution down the stretch.
Tennessee once held a pretty comfortable lead against South Carolina. At one point down the stretch, that lead got up to eight points. Then, South Carolina couldn’t miss. They were shooting over 50 percent from long range before the closing possessions, where they went cold.
Despite the barrage of three pointers, despite losing the battle on the offensive boards 11-4, Tennessee found a way. South Carolina got close several times, but the Vols had answers every time.
“They shot the ball really well,” Barnes said after the game. “Chris Silva got in foul trouble and they adjusted to that, playing through their guards. We really did have some good execution at the end. We knew exactly how we wanted to go through Grant. The guys showed some great poise at the end.”
Lamonte Turner’s big night
On a night that saw Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden combine for two points, Turner picked up the slack. Without him, Tennessee probably gets run off the floor last night. Turner was 6-9 from the floor, including 3-3 from long range. He scored 25 points, fueling the Tennessee offense.
Barnes said that Turner was locked in last night after the game. “We’ve been up and down. Our guard play has been sporadic at times. When Lamonte Turner is locked in, he can do that. We told him — I don’t care if he scores. I want to see him play defense and do all of the other things. Point guard is really important as far as setting the tone defensively.”
The emergence of Derrick Walker
The surprise of the night was freshman forward Derrick Walker, who had a massive impact on the game. He saw the minutes that John Fulkerson usually sees. He scored 10 points on 5-5 shooting and added 4 rebounds.
That’s what you call an upgrade.
“We’ve talked about Walker and John Fulkerson. We need those guys,” Barnes said. “Derrick responded this week in terms of what we needed him to do. His teammates have to him we need you. We need you to come in and play physical for us.”
I know Barnes wants and needs Fulkerson to get going, but it begs the question — why hasn’t Walker been getting more minutes? Fulky has clearly been struggling to get back into the swing of things this year. I’ll be interested to see if Walker can back this performance up going forward.