After leading by as many as 17 points in the second half, Tennessee fended off a late South Carolina rally to preserve a 66-62 road victory. The Vols are now 12-5 this season, 4-1 in conference play and 3-0 in SEC road games. Here are five observations from the game plus final stats and video highlights.
Streaking Vols: Tennessee is 3-0 on the road in the SEC after entering league play with a 1-4 record away from Thompson-Boling Arena. Their league schedule has been favorable thus far, but that shouldn’t diminish what they’ve accomplished. Last year’s Sweet 16 Vols went 4-5 on the road in league play – this year’s team is one victory from matching that win total. The Vols have also won 10 of their last 12 games. Outside of Kentucky, there’s simply not a hotter team in the SEC – and the league standings, where you’ll find the Vols alone in 2nd place, back that up.
Josh Richardson Reaches 1,000 Points: Talented Tennessee senior Josh Richardson scored his 1,000th career point against the Gamecocks – he had 13 points on an efficient 5-6 shooting. There’s not a player in the conference more valuable to their team than Josh Richardson. When the Vols need a bucket, they put the ball in his hands. He had yet another spectacular block and, even though he had an uncharacteristic eight turnovers, he was the best player on the floor for either team. Richardson couldn’t shoot when he came in as a freshman but really worked on his shot the last two years. He deserves a ton of credit for putting in the work needed to develop into a consistent offensive threat. If the Vols keep playing at this level, he’ll be in the running for SEC Player of the Year honors and should absolutely find a spot an an All-SEC team.
Vol Defense Stifling: Donnie Tyndall’s unique zone defense and the consistent effort with which the Vols play has proven to be a tough matchup for opponents this season and Tuesday’s game was no exception. South Carolina entered the contest averaging 71 points per game and shooting 45% from the floor. Tennessee held the Gamecocks to 62 points on a night when they shot just 36% from the floor and 24% from 3. If not for a late South Carolina rally, those numbers would have been even more impressive.
Punter Out of Slump: Kevin Punter, who was mired in a 1-15 shooting slump not long ago, has clearly found his stroke. He had 13 big points on 4-5 shooting and was 2-2 from 3-point range. Over the last two games, he’s 4-6 from beyond the arc and 7-13 from the floor. Tennessee needs him to consistently score in double-figures in league play and he looks to be in position to do that moving forward.
Vols Scorching Hot from 3: South Carolina has been one of the best defensive teams in the nation this season – they entered the game ranked 11th in defensive efficiency and 7th in field goal percentage defense according to KenPom.com. Naturally, the Vols shot 57% from the floor against the Gamecocks – including a blazing 56% (10-18) from beyond the arc. The Volunteers shot were just 11-43 (25%) from deep in their previous three games before catching fire Tuesday night. Credit the Vols for attacking the bucket, collapsing South Carolina’s defense and kicking the ball to open shooters.
#CheckTheStats#Vols 66, SC 62 pic.twitter.com/4PfeZJJiIC
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) January 21, 2015