Rick Barnes and No. 18 Tennessee received a game-winning bucket from forward Grant Williams with 10 seconds remaining to beat South Carolina 70-67. Three Volunteers finished in double-digit points, with Williams leading the team with 14 second-half points and five rebounds.
“We’re going to be in ugly games, we know that,” Barnes said. “Defense can win for you and it did tonight.”
The Vols got off to a solid start from beyond-the-arc, as Jordan Bowden kicked off the scoring with two quick 3-pointers. Tennessee’s swarming defense then forced the Gamecocks to go on a three minute shooting drought starting at the 18:15 mark of the first half.
A jumper from Chris Silva finally ended the Gamecocks scoreless streak with 14:31 remaining in the first half. However, Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner kept the team hot from deep range as he hit a 3-pointer to give the Vols an 11-7 lead.
South Carolina didn’t stay down for long though, finally taking the lead with a post hook from Felipe Haase after seven minutes of play. The Gamecocks went on to hit their next four shots while forcing five Tennessee turnovers through the first eight minutes of the game.
Tennessee shot 67 percent from the field and got another 3-pointer from Bowden to take a 21-17 lead halfway through the first half. The tides finally turned as the Vols went on a 10-0 run over the next five minutes to take a 27-17 lead over South Carolina.
The Vols spent the final 4:28 of the first half in a scoring drought of their own despite being in the double-bonus. The Gamecocks cut down the Tennessee lead to 38-34, as the Vols finished the first half shooting 31 percent from the field. Bowden led the Volunteers with 11 first half points, while Silva and Frank Booker led South Carolina with eight points each.
The Gamecocks started hot in the second half, as they went on a 6-0 run to tie the game with over 18 minutes remaining. However, Tennessee responded with an 8-0 run including a 3-point shot from forward Admiral Schofield. South Carolina ended the four-minute scoring drought and cut the deficit to 48-42 with a jumper from Silva at the 14:34 mark.
“We had that lull in the second half that deflated us defensively,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said. “But we had a little fight in us today.”
Williams jump-started the Vols offense with seven early points in the second half, followed by yet another Bowden 3-pointer with 12:27 left in the game that led to a 10-0 run. The three minute scoreless streak from the Gamecocks gave Tennessee a 58-45 lead halfway through the second half.
Still, the Gamecocks wouldn’t be put away easily, as they went on an 10-0 run in one minute to cut the Vols lead to just four points with seven minutes remaining. The Volunteers finally responded with a 3-pointer from James Daniel III with 3:38 remaining in the game to stretch the lead to 68-59.
South Carolina cut the deficit to just one point with 30 seconds remaining but were unable to complete the comeback.
“We played much harder defensively,” Barnes said. “Defensively we were a much better team than we were against Alabama.”
Tennessee now hits the road to play Georgia on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of Seth Raborn