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No. 1 Vols “Won’t Be Stopped” By Gamecocks

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Despite facing a stellar shooting performance from South Carolina, the No.1 Tennessee Volunteers remained undefeated at home by outlasting the Gamecocks 85-73 on Wednesday night.

The Vols’ high-octane offense was simply too much for South Carolina. After an opening segment of methodically running its offensive sets, Tennessee opened things up by pushing tempo out of the first TV timeout.

The Vols, led by Jordan Bowden, ended the first half on 19-of-36 shooting. The junior had a team-high nine points at the break. Tennessee’s pace of play helped counter the 3-point display that the Gamecocks employed. South Carolina finished the half by shooting 7-of-11 from distance, while the Vols went 6-of-11.

The difference in the first half was scoring opportunities. Perhaps it came down to a metric of three’s. The Vols created six turnovers while only committing three in the first half. They also put up three more shots and grabbed three more rebounds.

Tennessee spread the wealth by getting others involved. Its 12 first half assists led to eight players scoring in the opening period. The Gamecocks held steady for the first twenty minutes thanks to the shooting from Hassani Gravett. The senior sent 3-of-4 from distance and finished the half with 11 points.

Neither team wasted time getting shots up in the second half, either. Tennessee finished with a nice volume of 69 shots. The number of attempts were the most in conference play this season.

As the shots fell in for Tennessee, South Carolina forced quick transition. The Gamecocks did their best to keep up by dialing in from distance. Tre Campbell finished the game by hitting all five of his 3-point attempts. The senior hit two other field goals to give him 19 points for the game.

Chris Silva was a nuisance yet again for the Vols. With 17 points and 15 rebounds, the senior now has 45 points and 27 rebounds in two games against Tennessee this season. His 15 rebounds accounted for nearly half of South Carolina’s grabs. But it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Vols, who had their best rebounding performance since their SEC opener against Georgia. Tennessee out-rebounded the gamecocks 41-33, led by Admiral Schofield who had 10.

The Vols’ senior not only led the team in rebounds, he had a game-high 21 points. Schofield, who battled a shooting slump during a three-game stretch last month, is back to his former ways. His newfound confidence started against South Carolina in the first part of the series. He had 24 points and 9 rebounds in Columbia. More importantly, his jump shot seems to be fluid again. Schofield is now six of his last 11 from 3-point range.

The embarrassment of riches fueled Tennessee to another theatrical display of victory in Thompson-Boling Arena. Five players scored in double-figures, none of whom were the reigning SEC Player of the Year. Grant Williams was still ultra-efficient despite only eight points. The junior added seven assists, nine rebounds and three blocks.

Kyle Alexander, on the other hand, was one of the double-digit scorers. He finished with 11 points on a season-high 11 attempts. John Fulkerson had two thunderous finishes at the rim. Jalen Johnson even pitched in by contributing a 4-point play during an important sequence in the first half.

In the end, South Carolina didn’t have an answer. Its response was appropriate, but their abilities were trumped by team that is playing to feast and forget. Wednesday night’s performance was more proof that the No. 1 team in the country will make light work out of inferior competition. Their tenacity is predicated on the mentality of their leadership.

Tennessee now moves on for a chance to avenge defeat in last year’s SEC Title Game. The Vols face No. 5 Kentucky on Saturday in the first part of the 2018-2019 series.

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