South Carolina suffered two losses on Saturday night. One being missing out on phenom Zion Williamson, while the other came at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers. Tennessee was able to outlast South Carolina 70-63 in a clash of two physical teams. The victory moved the Volunteers to 13-5 on the season and 4-3 in SEC play. In a game where nobody seemed to be able to knock down a shot (other than Lamonte Turner), Tennessee’s defense and physicality down the stretch helped secure the victory for the Vols. Tennessee shot 57.5% from the field on 23-of-40 shooting and 5 for 11 from three. South Carolina snatched 12 offensive rebounds, knocked down 10 threes and forced the Vols to turn it over 13 times, but Tennessee was still able to survive.
Rick Barnes experimented with a different rotation tonight that included French freshman forward Yves Pons and freshman big man Derrick Walker Jr. seeing an increase in minutes. After tonight’s performance, I would expect Walker to continue to see an increase in minutes. Walker, who has yet to miss a field goal in SEC play (8-8 FG total), looked like fellow teammate Grant Williams at times. Walker finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds. Walker and Grant Williams helped contain Chris Silva to just 6 points, well below is 14.9 average.
After Jordan Bone picked up early fouls, Lamonte Turner checked in to save an offense that couldn’t get going. Turner came off the bench on fire going 6-9 from the field and 3-3 from behind the arc. Turner was also able to get to the rim at will and draw fouls resulting in a perfect 10-10 at the charity stripe.
Turner seemed locked in from the moment he checked in. It was refreshing to see a guard score, especially after Turner, Bone, and Bowden went a combined 2-19 at Missouri on Wednesday. Bone and Bowden, however, went a combined 1-6 from the field tonight. Tennessee is at their best when Grant Williams is getting his touches on the block. Teams are very aware of that and Williams has to work for every bucket he gets. In order to open up Williams down low, Bone and Bowden have to become more of a threat offensively. Bowden is one of the best shooters in the SEC when he is squared up and Bone can get to the basket whenever he chooses. We see glimpses of what both of them can do, but this team needs them to produce more than they have.
When Tennessee starts playing aggressive, in your face defense, the Vols can instantly turn their defense into offense to get rolling. It seemed as if the Volunteers dictated the pace of play tonight unlike at Missouri. Rick Barnes will surely address the rebounding struggles once again. This was a gritty, tough win for Tennessee in a tough environment that could be the beginning of another win streak. The Vols are back in action next Tuesday as they host Vanderbilt at home before traveling to Ames to face off against Iowa State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.