The No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers (6-0) came into Wednesday night’s matchup looking to keep its record clean before the start of conference play. Little did the Vols know that the USC Upstate Spartans (0-8) would give them a little more trouble than they initially thought in the beginning.
But Tennessee would eventually get its act together and go on to win in double-digit fashion. The Vols will now enter SEC play with a spotless record.
Tennessee could only manage a seven-point lead at halftime thanks to 41.4 percent shooting from the floor that included a 2-of-10 mark from beyond the arc. The Vols were able to get to the charity stripe, but could only convert 70 percent of their opportunities. SC Upstate, on the other hand, didn’t receive one foul shot yet were down 33-26 at the half thanks to a 4-of-10 mark from 3.
The Vols dominated the boards, 22-11 in the first half, but that didn’t stop the Spartans from keeping the game close. Tennessee was finally able to get out to a double-digit lead in the second half, but the Trojans kept firing back with 3s to keep the score a respectable 51-41 lead with 11:15 to go in the game.
Nevin Zink was able to cut Tennessee’s lead to eight with a layup of his own, but the Vols quickly recovered and before the Spartans could blink, it was a double-digit Tennessee lead yet again.
Tennessee began to take over from there. A quintet of Volunteers helped the Vols go on a 10-2 run to make it a 61-45 game with just 7:49 left to go. The Trojans were shooting over 50% from 3-point land, but it didn’t matter because the Vols had picked it up on offense and were now over 50% from the floor for the game. Throw in eight forced Spartan turnovers in the first 12:40 of the second half and it was clear why the Vols were pulling away.
Just because it needs to be mentioned: the Vols didn’t allow the Spartans to get to the charity stripe until 6:06 left in the game. That’s how disciplined this team played on Wednesday night.
SC Upstate could never recover and the Vols would go on to win, 80-60. Victory Bailey Jr. was the team’s leading scorer for the second straight game and Josiah-Jordan James led the team with eight rebounds. Santiago Vescovi led the team with eight assits.
The Vols will take on the Missouri Tigers in Columbia, Missouri on the night of Wednesday, December 30. Tip-off is currently set for 9PM EST.