After South Carolina managed to hang tough in the first half, Tennessee put the depth and versatility of its talent on display to bury the Gamecocks, pulling away to hand them a 92-70 loss on Tuesday night in Columbia.
South Carolina got off to a good start in front of a raucous crowd, keeping up with the pace-pushing Volunteers despite a slew of early turnovers. A single-digit halftime deficit — 47-38 — felt like an achievement in itself after Tennessee’s transition game and hot-shooting touch from behind the arc threatened to snuff out South Carolina’s chances. Chris Silva, in particular, came to play, scoring 22 of his 28 points in the first period and looking generally unstoppable.
Unfortunately, the Volunteers tightened up their defense on Silva in the second half, and even more unfortunately, no other Gamecock really stepped up to help. Hassani Gravett, who’s been Mr. Reliable off the bench, had one of his worst games of the season, turning in a forgettable four-point effort. Tre Campbell was the only other Gamecock in double figures with 14 points, and helped draw South Carolina within two points about halfway through the second period when he made three free throws. But Tennessee simply couldn’t miss, and turned the game into a lopsided affair within a matter of minutes.
Noted Gamecock killer Admiral Schofield led the Vols with 24 points, but three others joined him in double figures: Grant Williams (23), Jordan Bone (13), and Lamonte Turner (19). Tennessee also played without Jordan Bowden, which further underscores the Vols’ embarrassment of riches. UT shot a scorching 56.8 percent from the field, and out-rebounded the Gamecocks as well (39-31), often cashing in on second-chance points. Tennessee’s breakneck pace also hampered South Carolina’s ability to set up its defense, and the Gamecocks were often baited into turnovers when they tried to keep up. Quite simply, the Vols are a faster, more physical, and more talented team than the Gamecocks, and a worthy No. 1.
South Carolina (10-10, 5-2 SEC) will look to bounce back when it travels to Georgia on Saturday.