The Tennessee basketball team must have drawn some inspiration from the social media team on Wednesday night, as the Vols took the throwback theme from the atmosphere and put it on the court.
Led by Victor Bailey Jr. and John Fulkerson, No. 19 Tennessee defeated South Carolina in Knoxville by a score of 93-73.
The Vols’ 20-point win in SEC play matches a season-high in the conference for a third time, as Tennessee also defeated Missouri and Vanderbilt previously by the same margin.
Tennessee’s win over the Gamecocks was all about righting the ship as the season draws to a close.
(Fulkerson was) Born to Run – 1975
After multiple games of less-than-expected offensive production, Tennessee had a few star players seemingly break their slumps and set off fireworks in Thomspon-Boling Arena.
I think our best is yet to come,” said Victor Bailey Jr. following the Vols SEC win. “We haven’t put a full game together. Once that happens, we’ll be very tough to beat.”
Bailey had the best scoring night of his Tennessee career, exploding offensively for 29 points. Bailey scored on nine of his 16 shots, including hitting seven three-pointers on 10 attempts.
John Fulkerson also got in the throwback spirit on the night, having his best scoring game of the season so far. Fulkerson finished with 19 points, matching his scoring total from the final game of the 2019-2020 season.
“I thought he did the best job of running tonight than he’s done all year,” said Rick Barnes on Fulkerson’s play after the game.
Not to mention, Fulkerson’s season-high performance also comes just one game after Barnes challenged his star player to look in the mirror in relation to his play after a stretch of bad games.
As Fulkerson mentioned in his press conference after this game, tonight was another example that Tennessee does have players who can score the ball, especially once they get going.
(Let’s) Rock and Roll All Night- 1975
With a few inconsistent few weeks out of the way, Tennessee’s final few games of the regular season will need to build momentum for this team, and getting Bailey and Fulkerson going offensively tonight was a great start.
The Vols and the Gamecocks spent most of the first half trading shots back and forth.
Both teams would trade gaining and giving up the lead for the first 13 minutes of the game, but it was easy to tell that these two teams came out the gate hot to start the game.
South Carolina led Tennessee 27-26 with 7:43 remaining in the first half after an AJ Lawson dunk, but from that point out it was all downhill for the Gamecocks.
On the very next possession, Yves Pons slammed home a dunk which gave Tennessee the lead.
A lead that they would not forfeit for the remainder of the game.
The Vols continued the momentum from the Pons dunk with a 14 to 6 run over the next five and a half minutes, which took the Vols lead up to 11 with just 2:14 left in the first half.
“I am proud of these guys for the preparation,” said Barnes when talking about the team’s resiliency in dealing with Covid issues on top of preparing for the game. “For being locked in for what they did.”
Tennessee would head into halftime with a lead 50 to 39 after a buzzer-beating shot made by Jaden Springer.
(Springers’) Stairway to Heaven – 1971
Springer continued his explosive run over the last few games in Knoxville on Wednesday.
The star freshman has accounted for 74 points in his last three games, including 21 points against South Carolina.
Springer once again found success with his up-tempo style of play, which created openings to drive to the basket.
But even more than that, Springer also looked incredibly comfortable off-balanced around the rim and showed how much he can take advantage of out-of-position defenders.
Springer wasn’t the only one for Tennessee who could take advantage of the same thing on the night, however.
The Vols had 26 assists on the night, which is the most they have had in SEC play and the second-most they’ve had on the season.
Tennessee was able to rotate the ball on offense quicker and more efficiently than they have in recent games, moving the ball with purpose and authority.
This was one of the key contributing factors in the Vols dropping in nine three-pointers on the night, tying their second-best game from behind the arc on the season.
Barnes’ Tennessee squad picked up right where they left off during the second half.
In what has not always been the case, Tennessee efficiently maintained the lead against South Carolina for almost three-quarters of the game, including the entire second half.
Tennessee is pretty much doing to South Carolina what LSU did to the Vols on Saturday…
— Russell Smith (@Russell___Smith) February 18, 2021
Josiah-Jordan James did not play in the home game against South Carolina due to a wrist injury but is expected to on Saturday.
(Tennessee and) I Will Survive – 1978
Speaking of unavailable players, many people wondered if Tennessee would be missing any players for the game after Tennessee announced a positive COVID test among their tier I personnel earlier in the week.
Fornaturely for the Tennessee program, the positive test ended up being a false positive, which meant Tennessee did not have any players unavailable due to COVID-19 or subsequent contact tracing.
The person that had reportedly tested positive was tested again on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, all resulting in negative tests.
Returning to the game though, Fulkerson and Bailey both scored 15 each over the final 20 minutes and were a big reason why Tennessee was able to maintain that lead.
“Santiago not being able to practice really helped Victor Bailey get comfortable in this lineup,” said Barnes. “Santi didn’t practice until the shootaround today.”
(The Vols Keep) Stayin’ Alive – 1978
The Vols have missed Fulkerson’s leadership and Bailey’s hot shooting on the court over their last few games, which has really shown.
Getting both of those guys back to form can really raise this Tennessee team’s ceiling, as long as the rest of the team can play consistent basketball as well.
The irony of these players’ comeback performances on a throwback night deserves a tip of the cap as well.
Who knows, maybe the Basketball Gods were having a little fun and even tapping their feet to all the disco music being played in Thompson-Boling tonight.
Either way, tonight was a win that Tennessee should have come away with on their road to the SEC tournament, and they did.
Fulkerson and Bailey led the team tonight but will need to show right back up when the Vols host the Kentucky Wildcats in Knoxville on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.