South Carolina sweeps the Vols

After the Tennessee softball team faced a shutout by South Carolina last weekend, the Vols baseball team sought a chance for vengeance. However, they met the same fate as the Lady Vols. The Gamecocks swept the Vols by a combined score of 18-6 in the weekend series.

Errors plagued the Vols in game one on Thursday.

“I thought having four mistakes in the first inning that were pretty obvious to see cost us,” Tennessee Head Coach Tony Vitello said. “From there it’s hard to come back.”

On Thursday, the Vols lost by the score of 6-1 at Founders Park in Columbia, South Carolina. Freshman Garrett Crochet started for Tennessee on the bump, pitching four innings and allowing six runs on seven hits. South Carolina sounded on the scoreboard early, after ringing in three runs in the first inning.

The Volunteers first run of the game didn’t come until the eighth inning off a single from infielder Brandon Chinea. Gamecocks pitcher Adam Hill threw a no-hitter through five innings and notched four strikeouts in the win.

Game two resulted in a similar fashion for the orange-and-white, as they fell 6-2 on Friday. The Vols struggled to get their bats going again. They tallied seven hits on the day but didn’t bring in their first run until the sixth inning. Tennessee had runners in scoring position in the first and third inning but failed to capitalize.

Sophomore Garrett Stallings took the mound for the Volunteers and allowed eight hits and four runs in six innings of work. Sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons recorded each of Tennessee’s two runs on the evening. South Carolina once again found a solid foundation in pitching, as Cody Morris dealt six innings for five strikeouts and one earned run in the win.

“We didn’t really capture the momentum, I think that we captured the essence of what we’re trying to do which is play hard,” Vitello said after the loss on Friday. “That’s all we can ask from them, to show up and compete the way they did.”

The Volunteers looked to bounce back in game three, but the Gamecocks got the best of them once again on Saturday. In the 6-3 loss, Vols junior pitcher Will Neely allowed two runs on seven hits in his five innings on the mound.

Tennessee found all its runs in the fourth inning, as sophomore infielder Andre Lipcius and freshman designated hitter Evan Russell combined for three RBI’s.

In the seventh inning, Tennessee had the bases loaded with two outs to give the Vols a convincing lead but struck out to end the frame. Ammons shined as the one bright spot for Tennessee in the tough series against the Gamecocks, as he went 3-for-9 from the plate over the weekend and scored three runs. Ammons also reached base nine times and drew four walks.

The Volunteers’ four-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt. Tennessee will look to end its losing streak against Belmont on April 3. After their midweek game against the Bruins, the Vols will host the Florida Gators for a three-game weekend series in Knoxville. First pitch for the game against Belmont is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

 

Davis and Russell shine on Senior Day, take down No. 7 South Carolina

On a day where a trio of Lady Vols were celebrated, freshman Rennia Davis shined the brightest.

Following a rough first half on the offensive end of the floor, Davis sparked No. 15 Tennessee to a 22-4 run to begin the second half on its way to a 65-46 upset win over No. 7 South Carolina.

“Rennia (Davis) had a great game,” Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick said following the game. “She is just so solid right now. She does things to get her easy looks. She gets position. She had 10 rebounds and five on the offense boards which allowed her to score.”

The Florida native chipped in nine points in the third quarter alone to spark her team on the offensive and defensive end of the floor. Davis drilled a deep three-pointer from the corner as time expired to cap an explosive third quarter from the Lady Vols (23-6, 11-5 SEC) in which they out-scored South Carolina 29-9.

“We didn’t even run the play right,” Davis said after the big win. “I was just happy the shot went in, really. I just think it was a spark for us along with the defense. I think we started hitting shots in the third quarter. Obviously, that was a big shot for us.”

Davis would go on to finish with 18 points and 10 rebounds, recording her eighth double-double of the season. She now sits sixth on the list for most double-doubles recorded by a Lady Vol freshman.

Along with Davis’ nine first half points, senior Mercedes Russell helped carry Tennessee in opening half to keep the Gamecocks (23-6, 12-4 SEC) within reach.

With her mom in Knoxville for the first time to watch her play, Russell scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor in the first half on her way to her 14th double-double of the season. Russell, a native of Oregon, finished with 16 points and 12 boards on the afternoon.

“It was awesome,” Russell said of her mother being in the stands. “Obviously, a lot of emotion just being the last home game as a senior in the SEC. Hopefully we get to host in the NCAA (tournament). She was excited, obviously very emotional like I said, but really happy.”

Defense wasn’t the problem in the first for the Lady Vols, as they were able to hold South Carolina to just a 26-21 halftime lead despite shooting 27 percent and turning the basketball over 10 times.

Strong defense play continued over into the second half, which led to good looks on the offensive end that allowed Tennessee to shoot 65 percent in the third quarter.

“We made some adjustments and attacked the basket; that’s what we did, and our defense got going,” Warlick said. “Our players love to press. I don’t have to beg them to press.”

If you look at the stat line, Jaime Nared – the other piece to the dynamic senior duo with Russell – didn’t have greatest of games. But according to Warlick, Nared’s impact was felt far beyond the stat sheet.

“Her (Nared) presence on the press, it’s just awesome,” Warlick said of Nared. “That got the momentum to go our way, just by her presence on the ball.”

Nared’s defensive presence allowed Tennessee to start the second half on a 14-0 run that ultimately grew into a 22-4 run, thanks to five South Carolina third quarter turnovers.

“Live ball turnovers and rebounding,” Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley said when asked if turnovers were the biggest issue for South Carolina in the third quarter. “They just out-hustled us.”

South Carolina was without All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year, A’ja Wilson, who missed Sunday afternoon’s game due to vertigo. It was the second straight game against Tennessee in which Wilson did not play due to injury. Wilson missed the Jan. 14 game in Columbia against the Lady Vols due to injury, a game in which Tennessee won 86-70.

As for now, the Gamecocks are in wait-and-see mode as to if Wilson will play in the SEC Tournament.

“I’ll be on bended knees, hoping that she will be back Friday,” Staley said when asked about when Wilson is expected to be back. “I don’t know. I think, first and foremost, is her health and making sure that she is healthy. We are going to take it day-by-day.”

South Carolina kicks off its SEC Tournament run Friday evening, in what could be its third game against the Lady Vols this season. Tennessee who is a No. 7 seed in the tournament, will face ten-seed Auburn on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET. The winner would face the Gamecocks the next day.

“I hope we get to play them (South Carolina),” Warlick said when asked on the possibility of playing the Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament. “Auburn is who we are looking at (first). We’ve, at time, struggled with Auburn.

“They (Auburn) press. We press too, so it could be an up-and-down, fun game to watch, or it could be two teams struggling to get it past half court.”

Davis, who will be playing in the tournament for the first time, is excited to prove not only herself, but her team’s worth with the NCAA Tournament right around the corner.

“When we’re getting defensive stops, and we’re running in transition, we’re one of the better teams in the SEC,” Davis said. “When we sag off and play casual on defense, it’s not as good for us. Going into the tournament, I think for us, we just gotta stay defensive minded as a team.”

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Takeaways from No. 21 Tennessee’s win over South Carolina

After being out-worked in a loss to Missouri on Wednesday night, No. 21 Tennessee bounced back with an impressive road win over a tough South Carolina team Saturday evening. Lamonte Turner carried the Vols to the 70-63 win over the Gamecocks, while freshman Derrick Walker stepped up in a big way.

These are the biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s win over Frank Martin and South Carolina, as the Vols improved to 13-5 on the season and 4-3 in SEC play.

Lamonte Turner’s meal should be paid for all week.

Tennessee doesn’t beat South Carolina without the contributions of Lamonte Turner. The Alabama native was by far the best player on the court. Turner scored 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was 3-fo-3 from three, as well as a perfect 10-for-10 at the free throw line. Turner also hauled in an impressive six rebounds and assisted on two buckets.

With under 30 seconds remaining in the game and the game hanging in the balance, Turner drilled four free throws to seal the win. If Turner doesn’t make those free throws, there’s no telling what the outcome may have been.

Turner has struggled of late, speciallically on offense. Since the win over Georgia Tech nearly two months ago, the redshirt sophomore’s shot has been in a slump. On a night where Tennessee’s other primary guards were just 1-of-8 from the floor, Turner’s shot picked a great time to break out of its slump.

In college basketball, your primary ball-handlers have to produce. On Saturday, Turner did just that, turning the basketball over just twice in 32 minutes.

Derrick Walker steps up in a big way.

In Walker’s first six SEC games, the freshman out of Missouri scored a grand total of six points on five shots. Against South Carolina on Saturday, Walker scored a career-high 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field in 25 minutes of play. Walker scored eight points in the first half alone, helping Turner carry the team in the midst of a defensive battle.

Walker’s productive minutes were as critical to the Vols success as anyone on the team against South Carolina. The production of Walker was able to mask early struggles from star forward Grant Williams, as well as Kyle Alexander’s lack of production.

Once the light bulb comes on for Walker and he figures out this college basketball thing, he’s going to be a problem for the rest of the SEC. During preseason camp, coaches thought Walker was good enough to start as a freshman. He’s starting to show why.

Tennessee doesn’t waver on the road.

Being a Frank Martin coached team is no small task no matter where the game is being played. To win it on the road in a hostile environment is even more impressive.

South Carolina fans flocked to Colonial Life Arena and packed the stands. The atmosphere was impressive and tough, but the Vols never wavered. It was one of the tougher crowds Tennessee has played in front of this season. South Carolina would punch Tennessee, but the Vols would punch right back.

In years past and even in losses to Arkansas and Missouri this season, the Vols haven’t punched back at all times. If the Vols can build off this, it’ll go a long way to reaching what they’re capable of reaching.

Yves Pons finally earns some minutes.

The highly-touted freshman out of France has struggled to find playing time this season in large part because of the learning curve he’s battling that other freshmen aren’t. That being that Pons doesn’t speak English very well.

We know about Pons’ athleticism, ridiculous dunks and impressive physique, but he’s struggled to adapt to college basketball to this point. However, due to improved play in practice over recent weeks and a lack of production on the wing of late, Pons received his opportunity to prove his worth against the Gamecocks.

It was a mixed bag of results for Pons. In 12 minutes, Pons scored two points, making his only attempt from the field with a thunderous dunk to show off his athleticism. On defense, he looked a tad bit out of place as he picked up three fouls, but that’s expected with freshman in the early stages of their career. He also hauled in two rebounds.

When Pons receives minutes, you can see glimpses of why many think he will be a special player at the collegiate level. Fans will have to be patient, but when the light comes on, Pons should be a big time playmaker for the Vols.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of South Carolina Athletics

No. 21 Tennessee picks up tough road win against South Carolina

After suffering a frustrating loss to Missouri in its last outing, No. 21 Tennessee (13-5, 4-3 SEC) traveled to South Carolina on Saturday evening and defeated the Gamecocks 70-63.

In the hard-fought win, Lamonte Turner led the way for the Vols, scoring 25 points, hauling in six rebounds and assisting on two buckets. In 32 minutes of play, the redshirt-sophomore turned it over just two times.

With the other primary guards struggling and just 1-of-8 from the floor, Turner picked up the slack. Turner was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line, four of which came with the game on the line and under 30 seconds remaining. Saturday was the third time this season that Turner has come off the bench and scored at least 20 points.

Tennessee shot an impressive 58 percent from the field to start the game, but thanks to nine first half turnovers, it only led South Carolina 33-30 at halftime.

Along with Turner stepping up, freshman forward Derrick Walker stepped up as well. In the first half, Walker scored eight points on 4-of-4 shooting. He would finish a perfect 5-for-5 from the field for a career-high 10 points.

“When your name is called,” Walker said after the game. “You have to step up.”

“Derrick has responded this week, in terms of what we need to do,” Barnes said of Walker. “And his teammates have told him we need you. We need you to come in and play physical for us, be a guy that can help us with some possessions.”

South Carolina (12-7, 3-4 SEC) jumped out to an early lead, but Tennessee would take the lead and not relinquish it for almost 37 minutes of play.

The Gamecocks shot 36 percent from the field in the first half and struggled from the floor for most of the second half as well. However, South Carolina found success from beyond-the-arc to stay within striking distance in the second half.

The Gamecocks connected on six of their ten three-point attempts in the final 20 minutes of play. Due to Tennessee’s success in the paint though, the Vols were able to counter the Gamecocks success from distance. The Vols out-scored South Carolina 32-16 in the paint.

Tennessee was able to close out the win with strong defensive play. The Vols went on an 11-3 run – making six clutch free throws – as South Carolina shot just 1-of-11 from the floor during this stretch.

Justin Minaya and Wesley Myers led South Carolina, both finding success from three-point range and scoring 16 points. Tennessee was able to keep Chris Silva in check after his breakout performance against Kentucky earlier in the week. Silva committed four fouls and was held to just six points on 1-of-5 shooting.

For the Vols, Grant Williams scored 14 points. Admiral Schofield contributed 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.

After back-to-back road games, Tennessee will return home to face Vanderbilt on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET. The Vols will then travel to Ames, Iowa for the Big 12/SEC Challenge. They’ll take on Iowa State next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of South Carolina  Athletics

No. 6 Lady Vols bounce back with win over No. 9 South Carolina

After a disappointing loss to No. 17 Texas A&M 79-76 in overtime on Thursday night, No. 6 Tennessee (16-1, 4-1 SEC) bounced back on Sunday afternoon, defeating No. 9 South Carolina 86-70 in Columbia.

Five different Lady Vols reached double-figures in scoring, as the Lady Vols bounced back from their first loss of the season with a win over the former national champions.

Once again, the Lady Vols veteran duo of Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared led the way in Colonial Life Arena. Russell tallied yet another double-double, scoring 16 points and hauling in 12 rebounds.

Nared added 21 points thanks to an impressive outing from the free throw line. The senior was 11-of-12 from the charity stripe while adding five rebounds and two assists.

Despite recent struggles, the Lady Vols freshmen trio of Evina Westbrook, Rennia Davis and Anastasia Hayes played vital roles in the Lady Vols second consecutive win in Columbia. The three combined to score 29 points in the final 20 minutes of play.

Westbrook shot 6-for-11 from the field to finish with 14 points. The former No. 2 overall player in the country added five assists, two blocks, two steals and three rebounds. Fellow point guard, Hayes, finished with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. Davis would finish with 11 points as well – on 5-of-8 shooting – while hauling in five rebounds.

Tennessee swapped buckets with South Carolina to start the game, but thanks to a 14-4 run to finish the quarter, the Lady Vols led 21-14 at the end of one.

Lady Vols senior forward Kortney Dunbar sparked the team in the second quarter, knocking down a pair of 3’s within 26 seconds of checking in midway through the second quarter. The pair of buckets helped Tennessee build a 43-35 halftime lead.

On the afternoon, Tennessee shot 50 percent from three, knocking down six of its 12 attempts. Westbrook and Dunbar were a perfect 2-for-2 while Meme Jackson also drilled two three’s. The Lady Vols would shoot 56 percent from the field, their second-best outing on the season.

Tennessee dominated for much of the third quarter, as Westbrook led the way with seven points. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lady Vols led the Gamecocks 68-57.

South Carolina was able to cut the lead to four with under six remaining. That would be all the Gamecocks could muster though, as a strong defensive effort from the Lady Vols allowed them to finish the game on a 16-4 run.

With star forward A’ja Wilson not playing due to injury, Tyasha Harris led the way for South Carolina (14-2, 3-2 SEC). Harris scored a game-high 28 points and added four assists. Alexis Jennings – sister of former star Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings – finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.

The Lady Vols are now halfway through a brutal four-game stretch. After falling to No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 9 South Carolina, Tennessee will now travel to No. 2 Notre Dame on Thursday night before returning home to take on No. 4 Mississippi State next Sunday.

Tennessee and the Fighting Irish will tipoff at 7 p.m. on ESPN to conclude its three-game road trip.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee volleyball falls to South Carolina

Tennessee (8-5, 1-3 SEC) lost to South Carolina (9-6, 2-1 SEC) 3-1 on Saturday afternoon at the Carolina Volleyball Center in Columbia.

Both teams battled back-and-forth in the opening set and were evenly matched. The set came down to service errors with four for Tennessee and three for South Carolina. The errors made a difference with the home side winning the close set 25-23. Mikayla Shields of the Gamecocks led the team with six kills behind 10 attacks.

Tennessee took the second set 25-17. The Vols stepped up defensively with five team blocks in the set to limit their opponents to 10 kills. Tennessee ended the set on a 7-2 run.

The third set was a thriller with 10 ties and seven lead changes. Down 23-24, Tennessee’s Breana Jeter had a kill to save match point. Junior Stephanie Spencer would then earn the Vols match point off an ace. However, South Carolina saved Tennessee’s match point and eventually won the set 27-25. The Vols’ Alyssa Andreno ended the set with a .706 hitting average and 12 kills.

South Carolina finished out the fourth and final set 25-17. The Vols were unable to regain any momentum. The Gamecocks ended the match off a kill by Mikayla Shields. Shields finished the match with 21 kills behind 44 attacks.

Sophomore Tessa Grubbs made her return to the Tennessee side after missing the match-up against No. 1 Florida on Friday night. Grubbs finished the game with eight kills behind 25 attacks.

South Carolina’s win marks their third straight win over the Volunteers, making it the first three-game win streak over Tennessee since 2001. The Volunteers are now 0-3 on the road this season with losses to No. 2 Minnesota earlier this season and Arkansas last week.

After two road games in-a-row, Tennessee will hope to bounce back on Wednesday as they host Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols are currently 7-0 in home games this season. The match will be live at 8 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.