Let’s take a look at the biggest players, stats and quotes from Tennessee’s 72-53 win over South Carolina on Saturday in Thompson-Boling Arena with The Postgame 2-4-7.
Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin (UT photo)
2 Game VIPs
Vols senior guard Jordan McRae
McRae went into Orange Mamba mode in the first half, scoring 20 of his game-high 24 points before the break. McRae shot 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-6 from 3-point range in the first half. The Vols needed McRae to be even more aggressive since junior guard Josh Richardson spent 17 minutes of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, and he was. But beyond being aggressive, he was accurate, and that combination of efficiency and explosiveness was more than South Carolina could handle.
Vols junior forward Jarnell Stokes
Speaking of more than South Carolina could handle, Stokes was much more than the Gamecocks could tolerate in the paint. The big Memphis native had 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Stokes was a bit disappointed with his 5-of-9 performance from the free-throw line, but that was a rare blip during an otherwise solid day. When McRae and Stokes play like this in the same game, Tennessee is hard for any team — especially the last-place team in the mediocre-at-best SEC — to beat.
That was South Carolina’s 3-point shooting performance in this game. As much as the Gamecocks have struggled, they actually entered Saturday leading the SEC in 3-point shooting accuracy. But they were 21.4 percent behind the arc against the Vols — who were surprisingly good at perimeter defense, especially considering Richardson’s extended stay on the bench in the first half.
That was Tennessee’s 3-point shooting performance in this game. That’s nearly 50 percent. That dog’ll hunt. The Vols have been long-range marksmen in three of their past four games, and, unsurprisingly, they’ve won all three of those game. Basketball looks a lot easier when you make open shots.
That was Saturday’s announced attendance. It was an impressive crowd, considering the Vols’ erratic performance this season and the caliber of Saturday’s opponent. This town hasn’t given up on this team.
That was the number of steals Tennessee collected in Saturday’s game. Every starter had at least one, while sophomore guard Armani Moore — who looked good against the Gamecocks — and freshman wing A.J. Davis each collected one off the bench.
Vols' Jordan McRae (UT photo)
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin’s opening statement: “Good win. Good bounce-back win for our guys. I thought the guys did a good job on both ends of the floor. Great job facilitating the basketball in the first half. It was really our focus to get that ball inside to our bigs. A lot of those guys like to play aggressive, man-to-man defense around the rim. I felt like, together, our guys — our big guys — got off to a good start feeding the ball, making the plays. I thought our guards did a good job of keeping their spacing, making shots, also using the dribble penetration to get to the rim. I thought we set a good tone early in the first half defending for the most part. Probably at the six- or seven-minute mark (of the first half), that unit out there wasn’t as assertive as we needed to be, so we put the starters back in, for the most part. But overall, it was a good effort for us.”
South Carolina coach Frank Martin’s opening statement: “Just didn't have it today. Our margin for error is thin, we've got to play with a sense of discipline, toughness, and we just didn't have that coming out of the gate today. Then we have to make a high percentage of our shots and we didn't do that either. We've got a group of guys that really tried, we just didn't have enough in the tank to overcome Tennessee.”
Vols senior guard Jordan McRae on the team’s bounce-back from Wednesday’s loss at Vanderbilt: “We know what's at stake here, we definitely don't want to lose the game from the jump. We definitely can't lose two games in a row. That causes all kinds of problems that you don't want. ...We've been bouncing back from losses all year. We just need to have a better carryover, take one win to two wins to that third one. We haven't done a good job doing that, and I think we need to start doing that.”
Vols junior forward Jarnell Stokes on whether he looks forward to playing against teams with smaller frontcourts, like South Carolina: “You know, you play against teams like this, and you think you can push them around. Bu they come out with a lot of fire knowing that they’re somewhat (at a disadvantage) against a bigger guy like me, so they come out with a lot of fire. These are scary teams to play, because you feel like the refs let them get away with a lot of cheap fouls. I think they did a very good job of sending double teams, but when guards hits shots and Jordan gets off to a hot start like that, it helps me out even more.”
Vols sophomore guard Armani Moore on Vols getting off to a hot start and burying an underdog: “I mean, it’s good that we did that, but that’s just what we’re supposed to do. That’s what we’re supposed to do every time.”
South Carolina coach Frank Martin on Tennessee: “Tennessee is a really good team. I don't want to hear this nonsense I read about or hear on TV, they're real good. They're a real good basketball team and we play in a really good league. They're good and they played that way and we paid the price with a game we never really had a chance to win.”
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin on sophomore guard Armani Moore: “He’s one of those guys you like to have on the floor all the time. It just depends on games. I need to do a better job as a coach to get him on the floor as much as possible. He plays the 3 and the 4 (positions). Sometimes I think he’s better at the 4 because he’s physical enough and he can maneuver around those bigger guys and create some mismatches for us, but you know, I like to try. And then you try and get (freshman wing) A.J. Davis minutes out there. Armani, he’s a guy you want to have on the floor, but it’s tough, because he’s at that 3 and 4 spot.”
The Next One
Tennessee (15-8, 6-4 SEC) hosts third-ranked Florida (21-2, 10-0) on Tuesday in Thompson-Boling in a 7:05 p.m. EST game that will be broadcast by ESPN.
South Carolina (8-15, 1-9) returns home to face Vanderbilt (13-8, 5-4) in an 8 p.m. EST game that will be broadcast by SEC TV.
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247