The Tennessee Volunteers took the court in Thompson-Boling on Saturday night in search of their first regular season win against a tough USC Upstate team.
The USC Upstate Spartans looked anything but intimidated in the first half, quickly jumping out to a lead that would reach double digits halfway through the first half of play. The Volunteers struggled to make shots while the Spartans were red-hot; Knoxville native Ty Greene led USC Upstate at the offensive end, scoring 10 points in the first half, which helped the Spartans jump out to a 42-35 lead at halftime. USC Upstate shot 62% from the field in the first half and 57 percent from 3, percentages that the Spartans could in no way replicate in the second half.
The Vols chipped away at the deficit all throughout the second half and took the lead later in the half thanks to a 20-4 run which sealed the 74-65 win for the Volunteers. The Vols stepped up their defense on the perimeter and did not allow a three-pointer the whole second half and held Ty Greene to only five second-half points.
Jarnell Stokes’ performance Saturday night really showed everyone that he was back. The Junior forward dropped 17 points and matched his career high in rebounds with 18. Stokes did shoot just 5-17 from the field, but he drew fouls the entire game and went 7-8 from the line. Tennessee fans were happy to see Stokes back to his dominant self again after an awful performance at Xavier last Tuesday. Jordan McRae led all scorers with 18 points and also recorded three steals and three assists. Senior transfer Antonio Barton got his first start as a Tennessee Volunteer and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc and scored 13 points.
The Volunteers shot a great 80 percent from behind the line and only recorded five turnovers compared to USC Upstate’s 10. Tennessee once again showed that they have the ability to stay in games. USC Upstate took down Virginia Tech earlier this year and came out shooting lights out to take a double digit lead in the first half, but the Vols never panicked and continued to play their game by working the inside with Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, who grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 15 points.
The Vols take the court again Monday night against The Citadel at 7 p.m. and look to stay undefeated on their home court.
Edited by Will Lomas