After bouncing the Florida Gators for the second time this season, the Tennessee Volunteers will look to do the same Wednesday night when the South Carolina Gamecocks visit Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Gamecocks have won two of their last three since these two teams met back on January 29th. Their only loss is to the surging Kentucky Wildcats, whom the Vols play this Saturday.
Well won’t ya look at that? I’m already starting to look ahead, but I promise the Vols won’t be overlooking the Cocks Wednesday night.
South Carolina has actually been pretty good in SEC play despite their overall record, so this game may not go as smoothly as the 22-point defeat back in January. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how Tennessee plays with such a big game looming.
Conference Record and Standings
- Southeastern Conference
- 12-11 (7-3)
- Won last game
- F Chris Silva: 13.7 PPG, 58.1 FG%, 74.7 FT%, 38.1 3PT%, 7.0 REB, 2.0 BLK, 2.2 TO, 0.9 AST, 25.0 MIN
Silva was the only reason South Carolina kept it close at certain points during the last matchup and the team still lost by 22.
We all know what this kid can do by now. The question is: how do you stop him?
He was able to finish with 22 first half points on 6 of 10 shooting, but only scored six points in the second half. Silva ended up with 28 points and 10 rebounds, but the Vols found a way to contain him as the game progressed.
A lot of that was because South Carolina didn’t have anyone else step up outside of Tre Campbell. He finished the game with 14 points, but was the only player other than Silva to finish in the double digits.
Rick Barnes knows that controlling Silva is the key to this game.
- G A.J. Lawson: 13.7 PPG, 40.8 FG%, 67.4 FT%, 32.4 3PT%, 4.4 REB, 2.6 AST, 2.7 TO, 1.1 STL, 29.6 MIN
Like Silva, Lawson has carved out his role on this team. He’s continued to play well since the last meeting, averaging 18.3 points per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor.
That number also includes an absurd 66.7 percent (6/9) from three.
Something has woken up inside Lawson, because he did not play this well last time. He has the talent to make Tennessee’s life hell on Wednesday and if he can get into a groove, then he and Silva will be a devastating one-two punch for South Carolina.
Lawson nearly tied a career-high mark of 25 points as he scored 24 in a 77-65 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Keyshawn Bryant - another freshman - chipped in 17 of his own. Both were instrumental in helping South Carolina overcome a 13-0 second-half deficit. They scored 31 of the team’s 46 second-half points.
Arkansas was able to fight back and led 61-59 with around six minutes left, but an 18-4 sealed the Razorbacks’ fate.
Despite the victory, South Carolina still turned the ball over 21 times.
That simply cannot happen if they want to beat the Vols.
The Gamecocks did show offensive ability, hitting 10 of 15 from beyond three-point range, but as a team they average just 33.8 percent on the year.
Even though I want to be completely confident in Tennessee’s ability to remain focused, it’s hard for me to not have my doubts.
This is easily a trap game. I’m not saying that the Vols are destined to lose, but South Carolina is playing some of their best offensive ball lately and we all know how the Vols can be lackadaisical, apathetic, uninterested - whatever term you want to use - at times on defense. It’s a recipe for disaster that can be concocted with minimal effort if the Vols aren’t completely focused.
Lawson has begun to grow into his own. He’s led the team in scoring the last three games in a row and five of the last eight. Wednesday night could very easily become his coming out party.
But outside of all the good things the Gamecocks have accomplished in the SEC, they were only able to score 48 points against a legit Kentucky squad just a week ago. If the Vols clamp down and play defense, then there is no reason to think they will lose this game.
Tennessee’s most arduous opponent will in fact be themselves Wednesday night. As long as they stay out of their own way, they should be looking to win their 20th consecutive game in Rupp Arena on Saturday.