KNOXVILLE – A balanced offensive effort, coupled with stout defense, led the No. 22 Tennessee Volunteers past South Carolina, 66-46, Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Charleston, South Carolina, native Josiah-Jordan James provided the spark for Tennessee (11-4, 2-2 SEC), sinking a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the first half. That gave the Vols’ offense confidence and momentum to start the second period. James finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for his second career double-double and first of the season. He also had a pair of assists, one block and a steal.
Zakai Zeigler brought an energetic presence to the floor when he checked in. The freshman guard logged the Volunteers’ first bucket of the game and posted four points, a rebound, an assist and two steals his first rotation in the game. Zeigler finished the game with 11 points, four steals and four assists.
In total, four Vols scored in double figures, as Santiago Vescovi led the team with 14 points. John Fulkerson added 10 and blocked two shots. Fulkerson now sits just eight points shy of 1,000 for his career.
South Carolina (10-5, 1-2 SEC) was led by James Reese V, who notched 15 points on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Gamecocks were stifled in the paint as the Volunteers did not allow either starting forward for Carolina to make a field goal. South Carolina was only 11-of-30 (36.7 percent) on 2-point field-goal attempts, as the Vols made it tough to get shots up around the rim.
The offenses battled in the first half, both jockeying to sustain a lead. As the first period wound to a close, 3-pointers from Zeigler and Kennedy Chandler helped the Big Orange build a lead, but it was James’ trey as the buzzer sounded that extended Tennessee’s lead to a 30-24 lead, and the Vols would never look back.
The Vols rode the offensive momentum to start the second half, starting on a 9-2 run for the first four and a half minutes. The steadfast defense Tennessee has boasted all season held the Gamecocks to 8-of-25 (32 percent) shooting from the floor after the break. UT caused 12 turnovers in the first half, seven coming on steals, and carried that success over to the second half, forcing 11 more turnovers.
VOLS CONTINUING TO CREATE TAKEAWAYS: Tennessee entered Tuesday’s game ranked seventh in the nation in steals per game, and with 11 steals during the win over South Carolina, the Vols recorded their ninth game of double-digit steals this season.
OWNING THE OFFENSIVE GLASS: Tennessee pulled down 12 offensive rebounds, its eighth consecutive game with 10 or more.
HARD TO SCORE: Tennessee held South Carolina to just 0.667 points per possession on Tuesday—the second-lowest mark by any of Tennessee’s opponents this season. It stands as the ninth time this season that Tennessee has held its opponent below one point per possession.
UP NEXT: Tennessee heads north to Lexington, Kentucky, for a Saturday matchup against the 18th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.