During a week in which most of college basketball’s top teams lost focus, the Tennessee Volunteers looked as focused as ever as they dismantled the South Carolina Gamecocks for the 12th straight conference win of the season.
But Tennessee didn’t start off at their best. In fact, both teams started off sloppy on offense, turning the ball over a combined four times in the first 1:30 of the game.
Fortunately for the Vols, the fourth turnover belonged to South Carolina. Admiral Schofield appeared to have an easy layup in transition, but couldn’t convert the opportunity. Luckily for him, Kyle Alexander was there for the follow up and the first points of the game.
The Vols 2-0 lead was short-lived as A.J. Lawson imeediately drained a corner three to give the Gamecocks a 3-2 lead.
Alexander made a nice move in the post to take the lead back, while scoring the team’s first four points of the game. Both teams traded buckets and UT held onto the one point lead, 8-7, with 15:30 left in the first period.
A Lamonte Turner turnover led to another Lawson three-pointer and the Gamecocks took a 10-8 lead. Turner redeemed himself after tying it up with a layup of his own, but Kosart hit an easy bucket to put the Gamecocks back up, 12-10.
Jordan Bone was then fouled while attempting a layup and hit both free throws to tie the game back up again, but a Gravett three put SC back up, 15-12 with 13:02 to play.
But Turner would match Gravett’s three-pointer and to make things worse for South Carolina, Jalen Johnson was fouled while hitting a three of his own. Johnson would convert the four-point play, a Tre Campbell cut the lead back to one point, 19-18.
South Carolina was making shots, but the Vols offense was playing better as a whole. It was just a matter of time before they really started to click.
Before we get into the sheer domination of the Vols’ offense, it’s worth noting that a scary moment occurred when Bone appeared to injure his left wrist after going down hard. He was attempting a layup before Gravett slung his body into him, causing both players to come crashing on the hardwood. Gravett was charged with a flagrant one and Bone hit both free throws before UT received the ball.
Jordan Bowden’s first basket of the game put the Vols on a 9-0 run and gave them a 28-18 lead in the first period. Schofield then drained a three of his own and the Vols were on a 21-3 run before another Gravett three ended the fun.
If it sounds like there were a lot of three-pointers in the first half, it’s because there were a ton. Both teams were on absolute fire, combining for a 15 of 19 shooting margin with 3:27 left in the first half.
Tennessee managed to pull out to a 41-23 lead before finishing the first period by a margin of 49-36.
Alexander started off the scoring in the second half after hitting his first attempt of the new period. The layup officially put him in double digits. A sick dunk from Schofield gave the Vols a 53-36 and it looked like they were picking up right where they left off.
That held true as the Vols pulled out to a 19-point lead at one point in the second period. South Carolina was able to cut the lead to 12 with about 3:00 left to play, but that would be the closest they’d get to getting back in the game.
South Carolina shot over 60 percent from three-point range, but it wasn’t nearly enough. The Vols controlled the game, leading by double-digits for the entirety of the matchup en route to a 85-73 win.
Tennessee finished the night shooting 49.3 percent overall from the floor. They shot 45 percent from three. But the key stat was the amount of assists. Excellent ball movement allowed excellent shot selection and Tennessee executed.
Schofield led the team with 21 points and three other Vols ended up scoring in double-digits.
Tennessee now travels to Rupp Arena to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (20-4, 9-2) in what should be the game of the weekend on Saturday, February 16th. Tip-off is scheduled for 8PM EST.