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HOOPS RECAP: Nkamhoua’s perfect shooting night, more stingy defense lead Vols to 85-42 win against South Carolina

Vols holds their ninth opponent to 50 points or fewer

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Olivier Nkamhoua went a perfect 10-10 from the field and scored 21 points, while only two South Carolina players hit two or more field goals in Tennessee’s 85-42 win.

Two early 3s from Julian Phillips and Olivier Nkmahoua, along with four points from Santiago Vescovi helped the Vols jump out to a 12-3 start by the under-16 media timeout.

Though Tennessee didn’t accumulate many steals early, the Gamecocks struggled shooting the ball and had just five minutes at the 12-minute mark of the game. On the other end, Jonas Aidoo hit a 3 from the top of the key — he’s got the touch, it’s just taken him a bit to adjust — Josiah-Jordan James notched his first two points of the game at the free-throw line after missing two shots from deep and Nkamhoua caught a bad pass from Zakai Ziegler around the rim and somehow turned it into a reverse layup. All this had the Vols up 22-7 with 11 minutes left.

At the 10:42 mark, a Ziegler steal turned into a runout dunk for Nkamhoua that was all in some South Carolina player’s face, and freshman Tobe Awaka scored his first points of the game off an offensive rebound.

Phillips missed one of two free throws around the nine-minute mark — unfamiliar for the best free-throw shooter on the team (other than Triple-J, but he’s only attempted seven freebies on the year).

At the under-eight media timeout, Tennessee led 28-13. At this juncture, the offense hadn’t score in nearly three minutes and turned the ball over four times in that same span. The Gamecocks only scored two points off seven Volunteer giveaways as of the 7:21 mark, but these kind of games, with the sloppiness in ball control, get frustrating to watch.

James broke the scoreless stretch with a jumper with 6:35 left, and then hit another one a possession later. Then, Phillips hit a nice reverse layup after stealing the ball from an SC player who made an offensive rebound around the four-minute mark.

The Vols grew their lead in the final three minutes of the first half, with Nkamhoua making two jumpers around the paint and Aidoo adding two more points of his own. Then Vescovi drilled a deeeep 3 as the first-half clock expired, with Tennessee up 43-21. UT hit six of its final eight shots, and South Carolina didn’t score for the final 3:39.

Nkamhoua led the Vols with 11 points and made all five of the shots he attempted from the field. UT turned it over nearly as many times as SC did — eight to nine — but the Vols turned SC eight TOs into 12 points, while SC made just one bucket off a free possession.

The second half started in similar fashion, with Nkamhoua making two-straight buckets before Phillips made a nice cut that led to a dunk at the 18:27 mark.

Olivier got another bucket at the rim off an entry pass from Phillips, and then Tyreke Key scored his first points of the game on a 3-pointer right after he airballed a 3 that Nkamhoua wrangled on the offensive glass.

With 15:17 left, Aidoo hit his second 3 of the game on another attempt from the top of the key. On both occasions, the defense sagged, and Aidoo let it fly with confidence. A minute later, Aidoo stole the ball under the rim after an SC offensive rebound and then ran the floor to finish the play with an alley oop from Ziegler.

On the next possession, Vescovi hit his second 3 to push Tennessee’s lead out to 64-30, and by the under-12 timeout, the Vols were in the midst of a 12-0 run having held SC scoreless for around 3.5 minutes.

Tennessee further extended its lead to 43 points — 76-33 — by the under-eight timeout. James hit his second shot from deep, and Olivier lofted in his 10th-straight shot on a turnaround jumper from the far side of the of court — by the time the ball left his hands, he’d swayed behind the backboard and floated it over the board and into the hoop.

South Carolina hit the 40-point mark with around 4:30 left in the game, on its fourth made 3 in 26 tries.

An Uros Plavsic offensive rebound/ dunk combination made it 80-40, and Jahmai Mashack stole the ball back on the subsequent possession. Mashack didn’t hit a shot (0-5 from the field), but he had three steals and a block on a jumper in his 13 minutes as of the three-minute mark.

Freshman BJ Edwards picked up an assist as Aidoo hit a jumper for his career-high 13th point. A few possessions later, Aidoo broke that career high with another jumper for 15 points that was good for second-best on the team.

NOTES

  • Aidoo hit six of his nine shot attempts on the way to his new career-high 15 points, and perhaps more importantly, he hit 2-3 from deep. If he can hit open 3s consistently, it opens up a whole ‘nother gear for the offense
  • Josiah-Jordan James had 12 points in just 18 minutes, and he even tried to dunk on somebody at one point. That’s a good sign, as I’d essentially written his season off a couple weeks ago. He hit 4-9 from the field, 2-5 from deep, and he added three rebounds and two assists
  • Nine players scored at least once
  • Tennessee had 19 assists on 35 made FGs (54-percent assist percentage)
  • Despite being hampered by foul trouble, Zakai Ziegler led the team with eight assists and tied for the team-lead with four steal in just 19 minutes
  • Vescovi had an all-around good game: 12 points on 5-9 shooting (2-4 from deep) with four rebounds, four assists, two steals and zero turnovers
  • The Vols had 35 points off the bench, 36 points in the paint and 20 second-chance points thanks in part to 18 offensive rebounds
  • UT turned the ball over 14 times — it’s now turned the ball over 10 times or more in 14 of 15 games this season
  • Tennessee held SC to 25-percent shooting and has held its opponents to sub-40 percent shooting in 12 of 15 games so far this year