The Tennessee basketball team was looking to put a humiliating loss to Alabama last Saturday behind them with a great performance against South Carolina last night, and it’s a good thing they came out with a lot more energy and focus than they displayed against the Tide because without it, they would have lost to a Gamecocks team that was on a five-game losing streak.
As it turns out, though, that energy, effort, and focus translated into a good 70-67 win over Frank Martin’s South Carolina team in Thompson-Boling last night.
They looked much better right out of the gate, but the Gamecocks were looking good as well, and the Vols had a tough time pulling away. They led by as many as 10 points in the first half and went into halftime leading 38-34.
Carolina came out swinging in the second, though, and tied the game at 40 early. When Tennessee answered by going on an 18-5 run, the Gamecocks responded with a 10-0 run of their own.
As the game wound down, Carolina continued chipping away at the Vols’ lead and narrowed it to a single point with 36 seconds left. At that point, the Vols advanced the ball to halfcourt, called a timeout, and designed a play for Grant Williams on the block. Good call, as Williams hit a well-contested shot just before the double-team arrived and put his team up 70-67 with 11 seconds to go.
Rick Barnes instructed his team to foul on Carolina’s final possession, and they didn’t, but Carolina missed a desperation three anyway, and the Vols went to the showers with a 70-67 win.
Williams led Tennessee with a solid all-around night:
• 22 pts
• 7-of-10 FG
• 8-of-9 FT
• 5 rebs
• 2 blocks
Not a bad night’s work. pic.twitter.com/3OKjrtER4x
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) February 14, 2018
Despite the return of the energy, defense, and focus that has characterized this team most of the season, the recent trend of turnovers by Tennessee’s guards is beginning to become a bit worrisome. It’s entirely unexpected for a team with such a high assist percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio on the season.
But it was a win, and the Vols move to sole possession of second place in the SEC standings with a record of 9-4, 1.5 games behind Auburn. Next up is a trip to Georgia this Saturday at 6:00 p.m.