8th ranked Tennessee too much for USC
Tennessee sprinted out to a quick 11-0 lead to start the game. Devan Downey finally got Carolina on the board with a layup after nearly four minutes had elapsed. Behind Downey, the Gamecocks outscored the Volunteers over the remainder of the half, pulling within 5 points on two occasions, and trailing 43-35 at halftime.
"We came out of the gates slow, they came out of the gates fast," said Dave Odom after the game. "I thought that we had the game settled [after that]. I thought at halftime if we could correct a few things offensively and defensively that we would begin to make a run at them."
Once again, though, Carolina came out of the locker-room flat. Tennessee took advantage, and was able to press the Gamecocks effectively. The Volunteers started the half on a 20-3 run, and the fans were heading for the exits after just five minutes of play. One play summed up the night for Carolina. After a USC timeout, the Gamecocks inbounded the ball at midcourt, as Tennessee sat back in a half court defense. In one motion, JaJuan Smith stole the inbounds pass and laid the ball in the basket.
"I never dreamt that we would come out of the locker room so flat offensively," Odom said. "That was just a poor performance. It was not a pretty sight."
Tennessee thoroughly dominated USC in every area during the second half. After being tied in rebounding in the first half, the Volunteers outrebounded Carolina 25-13 in the second. All told, in the second half the Gamecocks shot just 33% from the field and were outscored 37-21, although most of those points came after the outcome was decided. Tennessee forced USC into 17 turnovers for the game.
- Downey continued to put up big numbers, scoring 24 points, but he had just 1 assist and 4 turnovers. Dwayne Day had a career-high 8 rebounds. He tied his previous career high of 7 in the first half alone. Brandis Raley-Ross played 17 minutes, but struggled on his injured knee. All his shots were short, and he missed both of his three point attempts. Mike Holmes had just 1 point and no rebounds in 10 minutes. Sam Muldrow had 4 points and 6 blocks in 22 minutes.
- For Tennessee, JaJuan Smith led the way with 15 points and 8 rebounds. The Volunteers cruised despite getting just 5 points and 4 turnovers from Chris Lofton. The Volunteers led by as many as 29 before they relaxed late in the game.
- Carolina's previous worst loss of the season was the 85-74, 11 point loss at Clemson. This game marked just the second time Odom has lost to Tennessee in Columbia. The 56 points scored is the lowest of the season for Carolina, two less than the 58 scored against UNC Asheville. The 7 assists were a season low. The Gamecocks return to the court next Wednesday at Arkansas.
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