The Tennessee men’s basketball team hosted the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols opened the game on a 7-0 run, sparked by a John Fulkerson jumper. It seemed as though Tennessee was getting around the Gamecock defense with some open 3-point shots. Santiago Vescovi got one to drop but was then sat down because of turnover and a foul.
It didn’t take long for the Gamecocks to get into their groove, using an 8-0 run to take the lead, after a few bad shot selections from Tennessee. At the 11:28 mark of the first half, South Carolina led Tennessee 12-10. Both teams had five turnovers to that point.
Tennessee was having a real had time in getting a shot to fall. The Vols went 1-of-11 during a stretch, before the U8 break. The Vols were forcing too many three point shots and not doing enough in the paint to cause problems for the Gamecocks. The defense was actually playing pretty well, forcing nine turnovers within the first 15 minutes.
Josiah-Jordan James knocked down a 3-point basket at the 6:21 mark to put the Vols back in front. Olivier Nkamhoua had a put-back off three consecutive offensive rebounds on the possession. The Vols were just 6-of-20 at the 3:53 mark of the first half. That happens when you force too many shots and stay away from inside the perimeter.
Though not many shots were falling, the defense continued to hang tough with the Gamecocks, giving them the opportunity to keep things tight. A very big and-one from Fulkerson with 28 seconds left in the first half and a defensive stop on the other end, kept things close.
The Gamecocks led 26-25 at halftime. The Vols shot 26 percent from the field and 3-of-15 from 3-point range. Unfortunately for Tennessee, they only had six points in the paint. They should’ve felt really good that they were still in striking distance up to this point,
Triple-J and Fulkerson were the only two Vols to score in the second half at the 15:19 mark. Tennessee continued to try and attempt every single 3-point shot imaginable. But, they were 3-of-19 up to point, and hopefully very thankful for good defense.
The Vols went 1-of-8 from FG range, but a very big Vescovi 3-pointer at the 12:38 mark seemed to ignite the TBA crowd, bringing them to their feet. South Carolina led 39-38 at the U12 break. The way things were playing out, Tennessee was lucky South Carolina was struggling to break this open.
Tennessee was on a 7-1 run, with a few starters on the bench and held South Carolina without a FG for over four minutes. Vescovi tied things up at the free throw line, with 10.07 remaining. These guys were bringing the heat on defense, forcing many mistakes. The crowd was working hard to show their appreciation for them attacking the glass and playing tough on defense.
Vescovi picked up his fourth foul of the game at the 9:09 mark, putting the Vols in a tight situation with Triple-J picking up his fourth foul as well. The Vols needed to get down under the five minute mark and let them play on. Drew Pember nailed a big time 3-pointer from the corner, backed up by a huge 3-point shot from Triple-J.
Tennessee had a 51-46 lead at the 6:12 mark.
A huge missed dunk by Carolina’s A.J. Lawson kept Tennessee in the lead at the U4 break.The Vols were shooting just 27 percent with 3:39 remaining and had attempted 28 three-point shots. Something had to give.
Fulkerson continued to give Tennessee the opportunities they needed to win, especially with a put-back dunk, off a Jordan Bowden miss. The Vols led 54-52 with 1:48 remaining, needing a few more big stops. Vescovi hit two free throws with 1:20 remaining.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, Bowden was having an off night again, The senior finished 1-of-17 from the field and 1-of-12 from 3-point range. Today, it was up to his teammates to crawl across the finish line.
James fouled out with 1:08 remaining, Pember entered and Tennessee led 56-55.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) January 11, 2020
Fulkerson had been a huge factor for the Vols all game, especially on one of the last plays. After a crazy sequence, South Carolina ended up with an opportunity to score at the end, but Fulkerson stepped in to take the charge and wrap up the game, with the Vols winning 56-55.
Fulkerson finished with a double-double: 15 points and 10 rebounds. A very big way for Fulkerson to cap off the day.
This wasn’t a pretty game, Tennessee shot 26 percent on 14-of-54 attempts and 19 percent on 6-of-31 from 3-point range.But, Tennessee holds another opponent under 60 points and gets the win at home. They have to sort out a bunch of things before their trip to Athens on Wednesday to take on Georgia, but it’s the SEC, so you take anything you can get.
They’re still figuring it out.