Saturday, 24 February, 2018

#18 Tennessee Vols hold off South Carolina Gamecocks for 70-76 win

Tennessee Volunteers forward Grant Williams goes to the basket against South Carolina Gamecocks forward Jason Cudd during the first half at Thompson Boling Arena USC men fall at Tennessee
Patty Aguilar | 15 February, 2018, 21:02

After trailing 68-59 with 2 ½ minutes left, SC scored eight straight points and got to within one on Chris Booker's driving basket with 36 seconds remaining. Help came but Williams made his move, hitting the jumper over two Gamecock defenders.

While losing to SC wouldn't have been the worst loss Tennessee could've suffered here in their final three weeks of play in the regular season, it certainly wouldn't have been a good one. "So as post players we got to go in there and play our game".

Hassani Gravett hit a three-pointer on Tuesday night with a shade over 13 minutes left in the game, but by the 10-minute mark the Vols had their lead back up to 14 points, as SC couldn't finish another game late.

"I just have to get our guards after 25 games to know that", Barnes said. "'Don't get the shot blocked and don't turn the ball over.' The worst thing you can do in that situation is turn it over or get your shot blocked and not even get an attempt".

"Playing it at their place, I think they're pretty happy about that".

Williams not only hit the game-clinching shot in the waning seconds, but he also led the team with 22 points and was the most efficient player on the court for Tennessee.

"We can't let that get on our heads", Bowden said. "It's on our guards not to turn the ball over, and we have to take that responsibility".

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Barnes and Martin coached against each other in the Big 12 from 2007 to 2012, when Barnes was at Texas and Martin was at Kansas State.

The Vols appeared to have put the game out of reach a handful of times, highlighted by a 13-2 run midway through the second half.

Barnes explained that Bone doesn't fare as well when teams change defenses, as SC is prone to do, but he second-guessed himself for playing Daniel down the stretch. The Gamecocks were again within four after Booker's jumper with 5:35 to play before Williams converted a layup and senior guard James Daniel III drained a 3-pointer to give Tennessee a 68-59 advantage with 3:43 left. However, Tennessee's Lamonte Turner kept the team hot from deep range as he hit a 3-pointer to give the Vols an 11-7 lead.

The Vols earned the comparison to last year's SC team from Martin, but they still have work to do if they want the same end result or better. "We controlled most of the game, and we just understood and knew what we wanted to do coming down the stretch".

Tennessee jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half after a Silva jumper put SC up one with 11 minutes to go. However, Tennessee responded with an 8-0 run including a 3-point shot from forward Admiral Schofield.

Two of South Carolina's starting forwards, Maik Kotsar, and leading scorer Chris Silva, were limited to a combined 16 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. "Just a team that is tied at the hip, and they are relentless on both ends of the floor". We were going for steals, not hustling back in and letting them shoot a three. So hopefully we'll just continue to just get better.

Tennessee is back in action on Saturday when the Vols travel to Georgia for a 6 p.m. tip.

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