USC kept it close for 35 minutes against 18th ranked Tennessee, but they couldn’t find the plays they needed down the stretch in a 63-55 loss Saturday afternoon at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
The Vols were vulnerable for sure. Carolina has been tough to beat at home this season and for a while it looked like they were going to pull another upset against a top 25 team at the CLA. Tennessee played a sloppy game, committing 19 turnovers. A lot of those turnovers were unforced mental mistakes. Carolina had a 28-24 lead at the half and with under five minutes left to play it was a two possession ball game. You would have to say USC had the Vols right where they wanted them. All you can ask for is a chance to win the game down the stretch. However, Carolina had a couple of turnovers and bad possessions in the closing minutes and just like that Tennessee had a working margin that was fluctuating between seven and nine points.
Darrin Horn knew his team needed to be almost flawless to knock off Tennessee. He’s said all season his team has a small margin for error. The effort was there the entire game, unfortunately the execution was not.
USC coach Darrin Horn postgame press conference
Quite simply Tennessee was the better team. We can dissect the stats and see where USC shot 5-26 from 3-point land and only took 15 free throws to the Vols 32. We can point out the Gamecocks only got three points in scoring from its bench. The simple fact of the matter is Tennessee is the better team and nine times out of ten, or even 99 out of 100, the better team wins.
I do give Horn and his staff credit for coming up with a nice game plan to give themselves a chance. In the first meeting Wayne Chism torched the Gamecocks for 30 points. He only had 11 Saturday. Also, Horn combated the extra attention on Downey with ball screens that created opportunities for others like Brandis-Raley Ross to get some good looks. The problem is most of those looks didn’t fall. A coach can do a lot, but he can’t make shots. The Gamecocks got the shots but couldn’t hit them.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was extremely complimintary of the job Horn and his staff did preparing for the game. USC did get the Vols off kilter for about 35 minutes. In the end, they came out on top because of supurier depth and talent. Those are two gaps that Horn will be working to close as he brings in his next couple of recruiting classes.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl postgame
Downey finished with 15 points. That’s about 15 fewer than we are used to him scoring in SEC play. I still would take Downey over any player in the SEC but I think we can safely put the Downey player of the year talk to bed. Brandis Raley-Ross actually led the Gamecocks in scoring with 16.
Devon Downey postgame
Brandis Raley Ross postgame
USC is 14-12 and 5-7 in the SEC. They play at Kentucky on Saturday. You think the Wildcats have that game circled on their schedule?
USC vs 18th ranked Tennessee BOX SCORE