Tennessee (11-5) at South Carolina (10-6)
Tuesday, Jan. 19th, 9:00 p.m. ET
Colonial Life Arena (18,000) • Columbia, SC
Probable South Carolina Starters
G-Tyrone Johnson, 6-3, 195, SR (10.7 ppg, 3.7 apg)
G-Duane Notice, 6-2, 212, SO (12.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
G-Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5, 215, SO (10.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
F-Demetrius Henry, 6-9, 226, SO (6.6 ppg, .506 FG%)
F- Laimonas Chatkevicius, 6-11, 251, JR (9.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (15.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.2 ppg, .362 3FG%)
G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (5.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (9.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg)
F-Derek Reese, 6-8, 220, JR, (5.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
Setting the Table
The Vols are coming off a week which saw them go 2-0 with a victory at Missouri and a home win over then-No. 19 Arkansas. Sitting at second in the SEC’s standings, Tennessee has a chance to pick up a decent road win against a South Carolina team they’ve beaten 14 straight times. Tennessee’s last loss to the Gamecocks came way back in 2007.
South Carolina has lost three of their last four games but they do have a home win over Alabama during that stretch. They’re 7-2 inside Colonial Life Arena this season with four-point losses to Florida and No. 21 Baylor. The Gamecocks also have a quality neutral site win over No. 9 Iowa State on their resume.
Tennessee stands at No. 50 in the NCAA’s latest official RPI and the SEC has nine teams in the RPI top-100. South Carolina is just outside that range at No. 110 despite several quality wins. The Gamecocks will likely finish the season inside the RPI top-100 unless they completely tank.
The Vols have won nine of their last 11 games and don’t have a bad loss on their resume. A loss in Columbia wouldn’t be a resume killer for Tyndall’s squad, but a win would continue their march toward a possible NCAA Tournament berth. A win would also give Tennessee a 3-0 conference road record and give them a seven game winning streak in Columbia.
“They really pressure you in the halfcourt. They what we call, sit on top of you as they try to limit ball reversal. They do a great job of fronting the post and trying to limit post catches. The game will be like Arkansas, but rather than it being in the full-court where you’ve got to handle the pressure and attack the paint, it’ll be in the halfcourt setting where you have to handle the pressure and attack the paint. If you settle for bad contested shots against this team, they’ll run you right out of the gym.”
– Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall on South Carolina
Freshman Vol power forward Jabari McGhee is likely out for the season after foot surgery. Junior Guard Devon Baulkman will be playing with a torn ligament in his left shoulder, but he has been effective. Ian Chiles, who missed significant time this season due to toe and shoulder injuries, will have surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season.
3 keys for the Vols
1. Attack the Rim: The Gamecocks rank 12th in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com and 7th in field goal percentage defense. For the Volunteers to move to 4-1 in SEC play, they’ll need to be more aggressive offensively than they were against Missouri. That starts with Armani Moore, Robert Hubbs, Josh Richardson and Derek Reese attacking the basket, collapsing the Gamecock defense and opening up some open perimeter opportunities. South Carolina is only allowing opponents to shoot 30% from 3-point range this season – the Vols can’t fall in love with jump shots, but need to hit the few open looks they get.
2. Decisively Win Turnover Margin: The Vols outscored Arkansas and Missouri in points off turnovers and went 2-0 in those games – that’s not a coincidence. With the game tied and 3:36 to play against Missouri, the Vols turned three straight Tiger turnovers into six points to effectively seal the game. South Carolina plays solid defense but they have a -.5 turnover margin in league play and commit two more turnovers than the Vols per game. The Vols need to speed up the game, get some easy buckets and capitalize on SC turnovers to pull off the upset (the Vols are 6.5 point underdogs).
3. Free Points: Tennessee and South Carolina have both been outscored at the free throw line this season. The Vols bested Missouri and Arkansas at the charity stripe last week and need to keep that trend rolling to knock off the Gamecocks. In South Carolina’s two home losses this season they lost the free throw battle. Neither team is good enough offensively to overcome a large disparity at the stripe tonight.
KenPom.com: South Carolina 65-58
Daniel: South Carolina 64-63
Houston: Tennessee 62-55
Reed: South Carolina 60-55