Down three starters, USC played well in spurts at 19th ranked Tennessee Wednesday, but they could not sustain good offense, and they had no defensive answers for the Vols who broke up a tight game in the second half and won going away 93-73 Wednesday night in Knoxville. The Gamecocks have lost four straight and eight of their last ten games. They are now 5-10 overall and 3-8 in the SEC.
The Gamecocks played without guard Jermaine Couisnard and forward Justin Minaya, who were both injured in last Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss. They also were without forward Alanzo Frink who was declared out for the season January 26th for medical reasons. Still, they managed to play the Vols better than even over the first 10-plus minutes of the second half and only trailed by 7 with 9:25 left.
The Vols then reeled off 7 straight points to go back up by 14. The Gamecocks cut that lead to 9, but then the Vols dropped the hammer with a 15-2 run that sealed their sixth win in their last seven games against USC. The Gamecocks made just 1 of 11 shots during that decisive stretch
For the third time this season, the Gamecocks allowed an opponent to score at least 50 first half points. The Vols led 50-39 at the break after shooting 53%, hitting 6-three pointers and all ten of their foul shots. Their shooting was even better in the second half, 56%, giving them a 54% night from the floor. It’s the fifth time this season an opponent has shot 50% or better against the Gamecocks.
The Vols were excellent in sharing the ball. They had 26 assists on their 32 baskets. And Victor Bailey Jr. became the latest opponent to score his career high on the Gamecock defense. He came in averaging 9.6 points per game and left with 29 points, six clear of his previous career high. Bailey hit 9-16 shots including 7 of 10 from three.
Tennessee also got a big game from forward John Fulkerson who started in place of the injured Josiah Jordan-James. Fulkerson had scored a total of 16 points over his previous four games, but he notched 19 points against the Gamecocks.
Turnovers also were a big problem. The Gamecocks lost the ball 18 times with Keyshawn Bryant turning it over 7 times and Trae Hannibal 5. The Vols turned those turnovers into 25 points.
The Gamecocks did make 10 three-point shots but hit only 40% of their overall attempts. AJ Lawson led the Gamecocks with 20 points, the fifth time in his last six games he’s scored at least 20 points.
The Gamecocks are back at home Saturday afternoon to face Missouri.