Hoops Preview: #19 Tennessee vs. South Carolina

Vols G Devonte Gaines / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Following a slight schedule adjustment, the 19th-ranked Tennessee basketball team will return to action with a Wednesday night home contest with South Carolina. Tipoff from Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

Fans can catch Wednesday’s game on SEC Network and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Tom Hart and John Sundvoid will have the call.

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp describing the action.

Last time out, Tennessee fell on the road to LSU, 78-65. The Vols were led in scoring by a third consecutive 20-plus point output from freshman Jaden Springer who finished the afternoon with 21 points.

A victory on Wednesday extend the Vols home win streak to four games and give UT a 12-2 record at TBA this season.

Up next, the Orange & White remain in Knoxville for a Saturday afternoon rematch with Kentucky. The opening tap from Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 1 p.m. ET on CBS.

THE SERIES
• Tennessee leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 47-28, dating to 1927. The Vols have won five of their last six games against the Gamecocks.
• The Volunteers own a 28-9 lead when this series is contested in Knoxville and have won three straight over the Gamecocks at Thompson-Boling Arena.
• Wednesday marks the 18th head-to-head meeting between good friends Rick Barnes and Frank Martin.

A WIN WOULD…
• Extend Tennessee’s home win streak to four games while giving the Vols a 12-2 record at Thompson-Boling Arena this season.
• Make the Vols 6-1 in their last seven games against South Carolina.

LAYUP LINES
• The Volunteers have spent the duration of the season ranked in the top 20 of the Associated Press Top-25 poll and are ranked No. 19 this week.
• Tennessee is No. 12 in the latest NCAA NET ratings, with four wins over teams in the top 40.
• The NCAA revealed its preliminary list of the top 16 seeds for the NCAA Tournament Saturday, and the Vols landed at No. 11 overall (third No. 3 seed).
• The true freshman duo of Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer have accounted for 52.5 percent of Tennessee’s scoring over the last three games.
• Meanwhile, the senior tandem of John Fulkerson and Yves Pons is struggling offensively, combining for 5.7 points over the last three games on 24 total shot attempts.
• Pons is a top-10 finalist for the Julius Erving Award and one of 15 candidates for the Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year.

DEFENSE WINS
• According to KenPom, the Vols rank third in the NCAA in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.3 points per 100 possessions. College teams typically average close to 70 possessions per game.
• Tennessee ranks 15th in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 61.7 points per game.
• The Vols are forcing 15.8 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 17.3 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +4.0 (14th nationally).
• Tennessee has forced 14 of 19 opponents to turn the ball over on 20 percent or more of their possessions. The Vols are forcing opponents to turn it over 23.1 percent of the time this season.
• Only one time this season has a Tennessee opponent scored 80 or more points. That was Georgia, in a game the Vols won, 89-81, on Feb. 10.

ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA
• After dealing with a number of COVID-19 issues during the early and middle stages of the season that canceled or postponed nine games, South Carolina has finally been able to get into a weekly routine. The team has played its last nine scheduled games.
• The Gamecocks have won just two of those contests and enter Tuesday’s game on a three-game losing streak. Through 14 games played, South Carolina is 5-9 overall and 3-7 in SEC play.
• Despite the struggles, the constant presence for the Gamecocks has been junior guard AJ Lawson, who leads the team and ranks third in the SEC in scoring with 17.9 points per game. In 14 starts, Lawson has scored in double figures 12 times with eight 20-point performances.
• In the frontcourt, redshirt junior forward Justin Minaya has led the way on the boards, pulling in 6.9 rebounds per game, which lead the Gamecocks and ranks seventh in the SEC. He’s also been a consistent facilitator from the post for Carolina, dishing out 1.9 assists per game.
• Off the bench, junior forward Keyshawn Bryant has provided much-needed production for the Gamecocks. In 12 appearances, Bryant ranks second on the team in scoring (14.1 ppg), rebounding (5.3 rpg) and blocks (1.0 bpg). He also leads the team in field-goal percentage, converting his attempts at a clip of 52 percent (68-of-132). Bryant’s scoring average also ranks 15th in the SEC.
• The visible stars that can been seen on the South Carolina state house in Columbia represent where cannon balls hit the building as Union troops used it for firing practice during the Civil War.

LAST MEETING WITH SOUTH CAROLINA
•  A then-career-high 25 points from junior John Fulkerson wasn’t enough to lead Tennessee past South Carolina, as the Vols fell, 63-61, inside Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 15, 2020.
•  Tennessee’s 20 turnovers proved costly. The loss was the first for UT against South Carolina since the 2016-17 season.
•  Fulkerson’s 25 points came on a career-high eight made field goals. He also added a game-high nine rebounds.
•  SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons added 13 points, seven boards and three blocks.
• South Carolina held a 30-29 advantage at halftime.
•  Out of the break, two quick 3-pointers from the Gamecocks increased their lead to 36-29 less than two minutes in to the second half. The Vols followed up those two possessions with an 11-0 run over a 3:15 stretch, with five of those points coming from Fulkerson, to take back the lead to the tune of a 40-36 score line.
•  South Carolina responded with a few timely baskets to knot the score at 44-44, before the Vols reeled off a 10-3 run to take their largest lead of the contest to that point, holding a 54-47 advantage.
•  In the game’s final eight minutes, the Gamecocks battled back and used multiple timely baskets and defensive stops to close out the victory.

MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES AGAINST SOUTH CAROLINA
• On Dec. 6, 1969, unranked Tennessee strolled into Columbia and upset the No. 1-ranked Gamecocks, 55-54, thanks to 20 points from Jimmy England, and double-doubles by Don Johnson (18 pts, 12 rebs) and Bobby Croft (12 pts, 13 rebs).
• A two-overtime thriller in Columbia saw South Carolina pull out a 111-107 win on Feb. 10, 1993, despite 20-point efforts from Allan Houston (29), Lang Wiseman (26) and Corey Allen (22).
• Wayne Chism scored 23 points, JaJuan Smith added 19 and Tyler Smith had 13, but it was Chris Lofton’s 25-footer with 12.0 seconds remaining that lifted the Vols to an 89-87 win over South Carolina in the 2008 SEC Tournament in Atlanta on March 14, 2008.
• 2011 first-team All-SEC guard Scotty Hopson had a bright career against South Carolina, owning a sterling 6-0 record vs. the Cocks. Hopson threw down a posterizing dunk in the 2011 Knoxville win that placed fourth in the CBS Dunk of the Year Contest.

FORMER BIG 12 RIVALS BARNES, MARTIN NOW UNDER SEC BANNER
• Tennessee coach Rick Barnes and South Carolina headman Frank Martin meet for the 18th time as conference rivals Tuesday and the 11th time under the SEC banner.
• The two squared off seven times as coaches in the Big 12 Conference, when Barnes was with Texas and Martin was at Kansas State.
• Barnes holds a 9-8 edge in head-to-head meetings.
• Martin went 117-54 in five seasons at Kansas State, taking his 2009-10 squad to the Elite Eight and winning the Big 12 Coach of the Year award that same season. Barnes also was one of the top coaches in the Big 12 during his 17-year tenure at Texas, winning four Big 12 Coach of the Year awards.
• Martin accepted the head coaching position at South Carolina in the spring of 2012. Barnes was hired at Tennessee in the spring of 2015.

THE SWITCH HAS BEEN FLIPPED
• Five-star freshmen Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer were solid role players through Tennessee’s first nine SEC games. But over the last three SEC outings, the duo has taken control of the Vols’ offense.
• The duo went from accounting for 24.4 percent of Tennessee’s scoring in its first nine SEC games to providing 52.5 of the team’s scoring in the last three league games.

-UT Athletics

Blogs