Knoxville (WATE) – Rick Barnes shook up the starting line-up, hoping to give his team a jolt after their lethargic first half Wednesday in their loss to Vanderbilt. Instead, the Vols looked shaken up, again limping out to a slow start Saturday en route to another big loss late in the season.
Tennessee (15-14, 7-9 SEC) started freshmen Kwe Parker and Lamonte Turner in place of Jordan Bone and Shembari Phillips in an effort to get improved guard-play. Instead, Tennessee turned the ball over eight times in the first 8:10 of game time. On the game, the Vols had a 20-to-3 turnover-to-assist ratio.
South Carolina (21-8, 11-5 SEC) snapped a three game skid in a big way Saturday,hitting 9-of-23 beyond the arc to help carry them to a massive victory. Duane Notice hit five of those triples, racking up 15 points alongside Sindarius Thornwell, likely the frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year. PJ Dozier paced the Gamecocks with 19 points.
On the other side, Tennessee again struggled shooting the ball, hitting only 18-of-54 (33%) for the game after a 29% shooting night last time out against Vanderbilt. Combined with the turnovers and poor shooting, the Vols dug themselves into a 17-point first half hole.
The Vols came to life late in the first half, outscoring South Carolina 21-8 between halves and narrowing the gap to 38-34 on a Robert Hubbs layup two minutes into the second half. But that was as close as Tennessee would come. The Vols would be outscored 44-21 over the final 18 minutes of the game, as the Gamecocks pulled away with a flurry of 3-pointers.
Hubbs led Tennessee with 16 points. He was the only Vol in double-figures. Grant Williams finished with 8.
Tennessee has two regular season games left next week before the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament starts on March 8th. They’ll likely need a big tournament run if they’d like to punch their tickets to the NCAA Tournament.
The Vols travel to Baton Rouge Wednesday night to take on LSU (9-18, 1-14 SEC), who opened play on Saturday as the league’s worst team.