Tennessee (15-14) vs South Carolina (14-15)
Saturday, March 7th, 4:00 p.m. ET
Thompson Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, TN
TV: Fox Sports Net
Probable South Carolina Starters
G-Tyrone Johnson, 6-3, 195, SR (15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G-Duane Notice, 6-2, 212, SO (11.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
G-Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5, 215, SO (11.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
F-Michael Carrera, 6-5, 212, JR (6.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
F-Laimonas Chatkevicius, 6-11, 251, JR (8.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.2 ppg, .362 3FG%)
G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (6.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (11.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
F-Tariq Owens, 6-10, 205, FR (1.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg)
Setting the Table
The Vols are coming off a dominant road win over LSU on Wednesday – a victory which proved they still have some gas in the tank and could be a dangerous team in next week’s SEC Tournament. With the victory, the Vols earned their fifth SEC road win, something that Tennessee hasn’t accomplished since 2011. Tennessee knocked off South Carolina in Columbia on January 20th in a game which saw the Vols overcome 18 turnovers with some hot shooting (58%).
South Carolina is facing a short turnaround after a heartbreaking home loss to Arkansas on Thursday. They came back from a 20-point home deficit to take a double-digit lead over No. 19 Arkansas only to lose 78-74. The Gamecocks are 1-7 on the road in conference play with their lone win coming over Georgia.
Conversely, the Vols are just 2-6 in SEC games at home this season. Tennessee’s RPI sits at 92nd and that number probably needs to climb to somewhere in the 80s for Tennessee to feel good about earning a spot in the NIT. A home win over South Carolina would certainly be a step in that direction. The Vols probably need to beat the Gamecocks and win a game in Nashville to feel confident about their NIT chances.
“They’re physically the toughest team in our league. They’re gonna bump you, they’re gonna hit you and they’re gonna hold you on every block out. They’re going to sit on top and take away every pass on ball reversal. The biggest thing you have to do is drive the basketball. “
– Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall on South Carolina
Freshman Vol power forward Jabari McGhee is out for the season after foot surgery. Junior Guard Devon Baulkman will be playing with a torn ligament in his left shoulder. He appeared to aggravate that injury during a collision in practice yesterday, but he did return to the floor and was effective. Ian Chiles, who missed significant time this season due to toe and shoulder injuries, had surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season.
3 keys for the Vols
1. Attack the Paint, Again: Tyndall said it best Friday: the Vols have to attack the paint. They did it against LSU on Wednesday and they were aggressive in practice on Friday. South Carolina’s physical man defense will smother the Vols unless they’re able to create off the bounce. Richardson and Moore were effective off the dribble against LSU – they need to continue that against South Carolina to emerge victorious and enter the SEC Tournament on a two-game winning streak.
2. Limit Turnovers: Tennessee was fortunate to escape Columbia with a victory earlier this season when a physical Gamecock defense forced the Vols into 18 turnovers. It’s no secret that the Vols have struggled to put the ball in the bucket at home this season – they probably won’t shoot 58% again and can’t afford to be careless with the basketball in what should be a grinding, physical game.
3. Stay Aggressive Defensively: The Gamecocks aren’t a particularly skilled basketball team, but they do move the ball well on offense and they will be able to attack Tennessee’s zone. Disciplined closeouts, hedging the passing lanes and quick rotations will be key to limiting open looks. Even though they only shot 34% in their previous meeting with Tennessee, from a scheme perspective they were able to find some good looks.
KenPom.com: Tennessee 61-59
Daniel: Tennessee 72-68
Houston: Tennessee 75-65
Reed: Tennessee 70-58