5 Observations: No. 1 Vols 92, South Carolina 70

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    South Carolina fought hard in front of a sold out crowd in Colonial Life Arena, but the No. 1 Vols were too much to handle even without one of their better players.

    No. 1 Tennessee (19-1, 7-0 SEC) stayed perfect in SEC play on Tuesday night, dispatching South Carolina (10-10, 5-2 SEC) by a score of 92-70. The Vols were in control for most of the first half despite a strong performance by the Gamecocks’ Chris Silva, and they led 47-38 at the half.

    But the Gamecocks would fight back in the second half, and they cut Tennessee’s lead down to two points with 13:07 to go. After Admiral Schofield fouled Tre Campbell on a three, he would sink all three attempts from the charity stripe to make the score 60-58.

    Then, the Vols would slowly begin to pull away.

    After that point, Tennessee outscored South Carolina 32 to 12 and asserted their dominance on both ends of the court. The Vols outscored South Carolina 42-22 in the paint, and UT scored 21 points off turnovers compared to just nine points off takeaways for the Gamecocks.

    Tennessee out-rebounded the Gamecocks, had more assists, and shot better from the floor than South Carolina on Tuesday night. The Vols had four different players score in double figures. And they did it all without Jordan Bowden playing a single minute. Bowden, who came into Tuesday’s game averaging 16.2 points per game in SEC play, tweaked his knee in shootaround and didn’t play against the Gamecocks.

    But the Vols didn’t need him, as they scored over 90 points for the seventh time this season.

    Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s 92-70 win over South Carolina.

    Admiral’s Strong Second Half

    Admiral Schofield came into Tuesday’s game in a bit of a shooting slump. The senior forward had made just 11 of his last 42 shots in UT’s last three games, and he had only made two of his last 15 three-pointers. He was still contributing in other ways, averaging 8.3 rebounds over that same three-game stretch. But Schofield’s shooting touch was definitely off.

    In the first half, it looked like Schofield’s shooting woes were going to continue on Tuesday. He began the game making just one of his first four shots and had only four points in the first half. He had six rebounds and three assists, but his shots still weren’t falling.

    That all changed in the second half, though.

    Admiral dumped in 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the second half, and he finally made a three-pointer. Schofield showed much more aggressiveness and tenacity in the second half, consistently driving in the lane and creating good looks for himself.

    Schofield finished with a team-high 24 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.

    Stoppin Silva (Finally)

    Chris Silva was essentially the only reason South Carolina was able to hang around in the first half.

    With Kyle Alexander picking up two quick fouls in the first half, Silva took advantage of the absences of UT’s big man. Silva time and time again found shots in the paint, and he drew foul after foul along with hitting a couple threes. In the first half, Silva had 22 points and was 8-of-9 from the free throw line. He was 6-of-10 from the field and made two of his three 3’s.

    The second half was a different story, however.

    Alexander played a little bit more in the second half than he did in the first, but he was still limited because of fouls and ended up fouling out after playing only 10 minutes. But the rest of Tennessee’s defense stepped up, and Silva was held in check in the second half.

    South Carolina’s wiley senior managed only six points in the second half, and he was held to just three field goal attempts. He made four of his seven free throws in the final half of play, but he was limited in a major way offensively otherwise.

    Tennessee’s ability to shut down Silva in the second half along with Admiral Schofield’s hot shooting proved to be the two biggest reasons the Vols won on Tuesday.

    A Dynamic Duo

    Typically, Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are the Vols’ two biggest factors in a game. And while both those players were huge for the Vols on Tuesday, it was a slightly different duo that was consistently very good for Tennessee against South Carolina.

    Grant Williams was efficient in both halves of play, finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds. Tuesday’s game marked the fourth time in the last six games that he’s scored over 20 points in agame for Tennessee, and he’s averaging 24 points per game over the Vols’ last six games.

    The other player who was a huge difference-maker for Tennessee throughout the game was point guard Jordan Bone.

    With Jordan Bowden out, the Vols needed one or more of their guards to step up. And Bone did just that, scoring 19 points and dishing out nine assists in 36 minutes of play. Bone also brought down five rebounds, and he was 3-of-5 from three.

    Bone’s 19 points were the most he’d scored since he dropped 24 points on Samford back on December 19th. Tuesday also marked the fifth time this season that Bone has had nine or more assists in a game.

    Cutting Down on the Threes

    Coming in to Tuesday’s game, the Vols had been lit up from three by opponents lately. The Vols had given up eight or more three-pointers in six-straight games before Tuesday night, and teams were shooting 39.2 percent from three against Tennessee the last six games.

    But finally, Tennessee’s perimeter defense stepped up on Tuesday night. And the Gamecocks also just weren’t hot from three like some of UT’s previous opponents have been.

    South Carolina made just seven of their 22 three-pointers against the Vols, and they were only 3-of-11 from three in the second half. The Gamecocks finished with just a 31.8 percent shooting percentage from three as a team. If not for Tre Campbell making three of his four threes, South Carolina would’ve been pretty abysmal from distance.

    Tying a Record

    Tennessee’s 22-point win over the Gamecocks marked their 15th-straight victory on the season. That ties a school record for the longest winning streak in men’s basketball history at UT.

    The Vols last won 15 consecutive games starting on February 20th, 1915 and ending on January 20th, 1917. Tennessee has rattled off 15-straight wins this season after falling in overtime to then-No. 2 Kansas back in late November. That’s been the Vols’ only loss this season so far.

    Tennessee will have a chance to break the school record for longest winning streak when they take on Texas A&M on the road on Saturday night.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.