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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 8, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: South Carolina 6-5, UT 10-2. Away Record: South Carolina 0-8, UT 2-5. Neutral Record: South Carolina 2-1, UT 2-1. Conference Record: South Carolina 1-8, UT 5-4. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 38-23.
GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Volunteers return home to Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday night for an SEC showdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina has not fared well this season, as it sits with just an 8-14 overall record and is alone in last place in the SEC standings with a 1-8 league mark. The Gamecocks most recently dropped a 79-74 decision at home to Auburn on Wednesday night and now have to venture back out on the road, where they have gone winless in eight tries.
Tennessee had found a groove with wins in three of its previous four games prior to a 64-60 road loss at Vanderbilt on Wednesday. The Vols are still 14-8 overall and own a 5-4 ledger in league play, and they have enjoyed the confines of their home arena (10-2).
The Vols hold a 38-23 advantage over the Gamecocks in the all-time series, which includes a 12-game winning streak dating back to 2008.
The Gamecocks appeared down for the count trailing by 16 with 13:20 left in their contest earlier in the week, but while they pieced together a furious run to tie the game at 62 on a Mindaugas Kacinas layup with under eight minutes to play, they could never overtake the lead and eventually fell in the five-point decision. They shot a modest 44.3 percent from the field in the setback, which couldn't keep pace with Auburn's hot shooting night (.527). Brenton Williams was outstanding with 29 points on 10-of-14 from the field, including 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. Kacinas scored 14 points off the bench, Duane Notice had 12 points and Sindarius Thornwell tallied eight points, nine assists and four steals.
On the season, South Carolina has a solid offensive attack, as it shoots 43.6 percent from the field for 71.4 ppg, but it unfortunately allows its opponents to put up nearly identical numbers on the other end of the floor (.440, 71.2 ppg). Williams leads the way with 14.0 ppg, while shooting 57-of-132 from 3- point range (.432), and his 72-of-75 showing at the charity stripe (.960) makes him the nation's most accurate qualified free-throw shooter. Thornwell puts up 13.2 ppg and swipes more than a steal per tilt.
Much like South Carolina, Tennessee also erased a double-digit second half deficit in its most recent bout, climbing back from 12 down to tie the game at 53 with 6:35 left on a Jeronne Maymon layup, but Vanderbilt strung together four straight points and went on to win by that same margin. It was outshot from the field in the setback, 52.2 percent to 37.7 percent, which spoiled a dominant showing in the rebounding battle (41-26). Jordan McRae finished just 6-of-18 from the field but still poured in a team-high 16 points. Josh Richardson scored 14 points, Jarnell Stokes logged a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds and Jeronne Maymon narrowly missed one with nine points and 11 boards.
The Vols have displayed strong balance on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 44.3 percent from the field for 73.1 ppg, while allowing only 63.6 ppg on 42.2 percent shooting. They also live in the green in terms of their rebounding (+9.3) and turnover (+0.2) margins and shoot free-throws at an impressive 71.7 percent clip. McRae is the SEC's fifth-leading scorer with 19.0 ppg and he's drained 14-of-27 from beyond the arc over the past three games (.516). Stokes is a nightly double-double threat with 13.8 ppg and 10.4 rpg, and Maymon (11.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg) joins him in the frontcourt for an imposing forward duo few teams in the conference can compete with. Richardson has also been solid with 9.2 ppg.
Tennessee hasn't exactly been a model of consistency this season, but its struggles have been nowhere near as bad as South Carolina's. On their home floor, expect the Vols to take care of business.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 80, South Carolina 66
02/08 10:27:54 ET
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