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No. 18 Tennessee vs. USC Upstate Recap: Vols win big again, beat Spartans 96-52

Tennessee is playing some really good basketball over the last couple of games, regardless of opponent.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina Upstate at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, it’s just too easy.

That was the exact case for the Tennessee Volunteers (8-2, 0-0) on Tuesday night, cruising to a dominant win over the USC Upstate Spartans (2-8) for their second straight win since their disappointing overtime loss to Texas Tech three games ago.

Olivier Nkamhoua led the way with 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field and the defense turned in another incredible effort, forcing 21 turnovers that led to 31 points as the Vols won by nearly 50 points on the night.

The Vols won the tip and immediately scored to start off the game with a 2-0 lead. That 2-0 lead quickly became a 7-0 run as the Vols hit three of their first five shots to start the game. Santiago Vescovi nailed a three a couple of possessions later to increase Tennessee’s lead to 10-0 with 17:03 left in the first half.

Tennessee’s lead -and run- extended to 13-0 before Bryson Mozone hit the Spartans’ first shot of the game, which was a 3-pointer, to make it a 13-3 game. USC Upstate scored another bucket a little later, but a Kennedy Chandler 3 and a Brandon Huntley-Hatfield layup quickly put the Vols up, 18-5, with 13:27 to go in the first period.

The Spartans eventually cut the Vols’ lead to 22-13, but another big Tennessee run -this time it was a 10-2 run- pushed the lead back out to 30-15 with 8:46 left in the first period.

Upstate then went through a 4:00 scoring drought before Ahmir Langlais’ layup made it a 34-18 game. The Vols continue to receive all kinds of contributions from the team, evidenced by the 10 different players with at least two points as they continued to grow the lead, eventually reaching a 39-20 margin with 3:53 to go in the first period.

Nkamhoua led the way with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting that included a 1-of-1 mark from downtown. The Vols had six players with at least one 3-pointer at this point.

Tennessee’s defense continued to smother the Spartans offense by denying opportunities and forcing turnovers and the offense continued to distribute the ball and make shots to the point where the Vols put together a 14-0 run. Quentin Hodge’s layup finally ended the run, but Tennessee still managed to close out the half on a 14-4 run, making it a 51-24 game after the first 20 minutes.

The Vols shot 53.8% in the first half compared to the Spartans’ 33.5% and to make things worse, Tennessee hit half of its 3-point shots (7-14) while Upstate could only muster a 23.1% rate (3-13). The Vols garnered 17 points off nine Upstate turnovers (as well as 17 second-chance points) while also getting 22 points out of the paint compared to just 8 for the Spartans in the first period of the game.

Just like the first half, the Vols scored on their first possession of the second half, but they managed just one more bucket over the next 3:41. The good news is the Spartans only scored two buckets of their own, so Tennessee still had a commanding lead at 55-26 with 16:00 left in the game.

The Vols finally broke their scoring drought thanks to a Nkamhoua layup. A second half that featured a combination of three made shots over the first four minutes soon saw four combined buckets (that included a 6-0 Spartan run) but Tennessee continued to lead, 60-32, with 13:26 left in the game.

But Tennessee continued to extend its lead through more good defense and more good shooting. The Vols went from a 28-point lead to a 36-point lead at 79-43 with 6:53 to go in the game.

And the lead kept growing. The game reached a point of 88-45 with 3:12 left in the game, which signified the end of things for the Spartans as the Vols shut the door for the rest of the game and won by a final margin of 96-52.

The Vols move to (8-2, 0-0) on the year and will host the Memphis Tigers for their next game. Tipoff is currently scheduled for 12 p.m. ET on December 18.

You can check out the final score and stats here.