After a furious rally late in the game, the Gamecocks came close to taking out the favored Vols in Knoxville, but, in the end, Tennessee won 82-79 and handed Carolina its second straight loss. Dominique Archie led Carolina with 19 points (he added 12 rebounds, netting a double-double), while Vols star Tyler Smith led all scorers with 20.
It's difficult to judge our performance in this game. In nearly coming back from a large deficit while on the road against a good team, the Gamecocks displayed a level of fight that it lacked last year. However, the result was the same old story. Moreover, poor first-half offense--the Vols led 43-28 at the break--was again a cause for concern. If we're going to win tough games, we're usually not going to do with miracle comebacks but rather by playing well the entire game. Devan Downey said it best after the game: "We can't dig ourselves in a 14-, 16-point deficit. The focus we had in the second half we need for 40 minutes." Defense was also again a problem. Although this was to be expected to some degree, it's now clear that we're not going to be able to force the same number of turnovers in our full-court press against the more athletic teams in the SEC, which would include Tennessee and LSU, that we got against the Wofford and Citadels of the world.
While it certainly would have been nice to pick up a victory on this road trip, all is not lost if we can rebound with some victories on the coming home stand. All three games--Florida, struggling Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt--are winnable, although Florida and, to a lesser degree, Vanderbilt will be very tough. To remain in the hunt for an NCAAs bid, we probably need to win at least two, if not all three, of these games. If we can't do that, we're likely staring down another trip to the NIT.