Without Julian Phillips and late-scratch Tyreke Key, the Vols found themselves in a precarious position, down two contributors and having lost two-straight and five of the last seven.
But Josiah-Jordan James returned to the court after missing UT’s last four games and scored 18 points to lead all scorers in Tennessee’s blistering 85-45 win against South Carolina.
Tennessee led for the majority of the first — in fact, the Gamecocks took a 4-3 lead with 17:47 left in the half, but the Vols answered with a 16-1 run and never looked back.
Zakai Ziegler hit two 3s and a jumper during that run, and for the half, he ended up with eight points, five assists, two steals and two turnovers.
Josiah-Jordan James’ return was felt early and often in the first half. He led the team with 10 first-half points in only 10 minutes. He shot the ball well from deep (2-3), but more importantly, he was aggressive driving to the hoop as his four non-three-point scores came on driving layups.
With Phillips out again, tonight was another opportunity for sophomore wing Jahmai Mashack. He was like a freight train going to the bucket and scored four points on two driving layups. He also tied for the team-lead with five rebounds and two steals.
Vescovi was just about the only Vol to struggle in the game’s first 20 minutes — he had just two points on 1-6 shooting — which is sorta becoming the norm. I don’t know why he’s having tough first halves, but he seemingly always redeems himself in the second half.
The UT lead fluctuated through the first half, but after that 16-1 run, South Carolina never got closer than the 10-point deficit it faced near halftime. James extended Tennessee’s lead back out to 12 to close the half.
The offense shot 56.7 percent from the field, had 12 assists on 17 made baskets, hit eight of its nine layups and turned 10 SC turnovers into 11 points. Meanwhile, the defense held SC to 35-percent shooting and held every Gamecock scorer to six points or less, outside of the 15 that Haydren Brown poured in.
The second half started in perfect Volunteer fashion — a Vescovi made 3.
Mashack and Olivier made layups, and by the 18-minute mark, the Tennessee lead had ballooned out to 15 points. After the break, a Santi jumper, a Ziegler-to-Aidoo alley-oop and another Nkamhou layup pushed the lead to 21. A Jacboi Wright score broke the Gamecock scoreless streak at the 14:10 mark, but Tennessee’s 19-point lead remained.
Tennessee went on another 10-0 run that consisted of an Olivier layup, a Plavsic layup, a Ziegler 3 and a Mashack 3 that spurred a timeout from South Carolina Head Coach Lamont Harris. 61-34 Vols with 8:55 left in the game.
James didn’t check into the game in the second half until the 14:57 mark, but he hit a jumper and then 3s on two-straight possessions all in between 7:47 - 5:33. He left the game leading all scorers with 18 points on 7-11 shooting, including 4-7 from downtown.
With 2:43 left, Ziegler alleyed and Tobe Awake ooped to push UT’s lead out to 77-41 — this play marked Zakai’s fifth points/ assists double-double of the season.
I know by this point in the game, it’s garbage time and typically would be filtered out of a lot of metrics, but BJ Edwards got the ball on the fast break, drove to the hoops and found himself among the trees , but he found Awaka for a layup — nice to see from the Catholic graduate who has found himself some playing time lately with all the Vol injuries.
- UT outscored South Carolina 47-19 in the second half
- While Tennessee shot the ball well from deep (10-23), it also outscored SC 46-24 in the paint, hit 11-12 on layups and made all five of its dunk attempts
- Six Vols scored in double figures: James (18), Mashack (14), Ziegler (13), Nkamhoua (10), Plavsic (10). Every scholarship player who played scored at least one basket
- Josiah’s game-leading 18 points came in just 21 minutes. That’s some serious efficiency
- Tennessee had 12 offensive rebounds — Mashack led the team with four — and it converted those extra possessions into 18 second-chance points
- The Vols finished with a season-high 29 assists (!!!) on 36 made baskets. Tennessee ranks fifth in the NCAA in assist percentage — tonight’s percentage: 80. That’s probably a season-high, too
- Vescovi didn’t find his groove in the second half like he has recently, but he still managed to leave his mark on the game: just seven points on 3-12 (1-9 from 3), but he had four rebounds, four assists, one steal and just one turnover
- I mentioned Ziegler’s fifth double-double of the season —he had 13 points and 11 assists, but, maybe, more importantly, he had just two turnovers. He played just 31 minutes — a break for who’s played 35 minutes or more in six of the team’s last 12 games. He managed to stay completely out of foul trouble with zero fouls. This was his fourth game with zero fouls, all UT wins, and it was his 14th game with fewer than three turnovers. During the Vols’ recent skid, since the Texas game, he’s had three or more fouls in six of the team’s seven losses
- From the complement of Tennessee’s post players: 28 points, 14 rebounds, six fouls, ZERO turnovers
- In ten minutes of action, BJ Edwards had two points on 1-3 shooting and two assists
- The team finished shooting 58 percent from the field and notched a blazing 1.57 points per-possession mark. The Vols rank 106th in the NCAA with a season-average 1.04 mark
- The Vols finished with eight turnovers — they’re 8-3 when they turn the ball over fewer than 10 times in a game.
- 52 of Tennessee’s 84 points came via two-point shots. The Vols rank 198th in the NCAA on two-point shot percentage, hitting just 49 percent of their 2s.