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With a short bench, Tennessee passes another test on the road

The Vols were thrown a curveball, but it didn’t matter.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Top-ranked Tennessee rolled into Columbia to face the South Carolina Gamecocks, knowing they were in for a fight. What they didn’t know was that key sixth man Jordan Bowden would tweak his knee in shootaround and have to sit this one out.

That was the report from the SEC Network crew just minutes into the game, at least. Sure enough, Jalen Johnson entered the game at the first break, with Bowden still sitting on the bench with his sweats on.

Bowden has proven to be a key piece coming off of the bench for the Vols this year. He’s been one of their main threats from the outside, hitting 38 percent of his shots from the perimeter so far this year.

Without Bowden available, Tennessee had to have Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner step up on the offensive end. They did that, and then some.

Bone ended up with 19 points, hitting 3-5 shots from three-point range as he took control of this game. Turner added 13 points, shooing 3-6 from deep.

Admiral Schofield stepped up tonight in the midst of a shooting slump, doing plenty of damage tonight at the rim. Schofield hit a couple of jumpers, but made a living tonight cutting to the basket and finishing plays. He ended up with 24 points on 9-17 shooting, which led the team.

Of course, you got your nightly 20+ point performance from Grant Williams too. South Carolina had no answers in the first half for Tennessee’s star forward. They clamped down on him in the second half, but the damage had already been done.

Jalen Johnson and Derrick Walker were forced into minutes tonight as a result of the Bowden injury and Kyle Alexander’s foul trouble. Neither were very involved offensively, but Tennessee’s ‘big three’ were so good that it didn’t matter.

This night could have gone very differently for Tennessee. The offense has seen plenty of dead stretches over the past three weeks, but that wasn’t the case tonight. The shots were falling for Turner and Bone, which was the difference in the game tonight.

Bone, a 27 percent three-point shooter this year, shot 60 percent tonight. More importantly, he carved up the Gamecocks’ defense throughout the first quarter, coming up big as he found answer after answer. His nine assists were a big deal tonight to help the Vols maintain control.

It was the 15th straight win for Tennessee, which ties a program record. This team has a chance to break that record on Saturday in College Station against the Texas A&M Aggies.