Turner’s 25 leads No. 21 Tennessee past South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) After a listless performance in a loss to Missouri, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told his players it was going to be a long season if they couldn’t get points off the bench.
Lamonte Turner didn’t start but matched his career high with 25 points, and reserve forward Derrick Walker added 10 to help the 12th-ranked Volunteers (13-5, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) to a 70-63 win over South Carolina on Saturday night.
Tennessee’s reserves scored a season-high 39 points.
”We can’t get locked into a seven-man rotation,” said Barnes, who got at least 10 minutes off the bench from four different players.
Turner was by far the best. The 6-foot-1 guard led the Vols in rebounds with six, made all 10 of his free throws – including four in the final 36 seconds – and had a key sequence in the second half with the game tied at 59 and South Carolina (12-7, 3-4) having just missed two chances to take its first lead since the opening two minutes.
Turner made a short jumper, and then found Admiral Schofield in the corner for a 3 on a fast break that Schofield started with a steal. The Volunteers led the rest of the way.
Justin Minaya and Wesley Myers each scored 16 points to lead the Gamecocks, who made 10 of 23 3-pointers as their inside game faded away.
Tennessee never stretched their lead beyond double digits. South Carolina had a chance to cut the lead to one or tie in the final minute but missed a 3-pointer, a short jumper, a layup and a tip-in on one possession.
The Gamecocks tied the game twice in the second half but could never push ahead. Last week, South Carolina came from 14 down in the second half to beat No. 18 Kentucky 76-68.
”When we tied the game against Kentucky, we didn’t airball the next layup,” Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said.
SHUTTING DOWN THE BIGS
Tennessee outscored South Carolina 32-16 in the paint, getting both of the Gamecocks’ main big men in foul trouble.
Chris Silva, who came in averaging a second-best 19.3 points in SEC games, scored just six points on 1-of-5 shooting, playing only 25 minutes and picking up four fouls. The Gamecocks’ other starting big man, Malik Kotsar, fouled out with just eight points.
”They are learning they better put their big boy pants on if the game is like that,” Martin said.
The win may be just enough to help Tennessee hang on to its first Top 25 ranking in nearly seven years. The Volunteers went 1-1 this week after losing 59-55 at Missouri. They have been ranked for seven straight weeks since entering the poll for the first time since 2010 on Dec. 4.
Tennessee: The Volunteers made 5 of 11 3-pointers, important shots to open up the inside after South Carolina had held its last two opponents to a combined 4 for 23 from behind the arc. Tennessee had four offensive rebounds all game but scored on each of them.
South Carolina: The loss stings, but after starting 1-3 in the SEC, the Gamecocks are back in the NCAA Tournament discussion after wins in the past week at Georgia and at home against No. 18 Kentucky. But free throws killed South Carolina’s chances. Silva missed two free throws that would have tied it with 2:30 left, and the Gamecocks made just 17 of 27 attempts. South Carolina is now 1-7 when it scores fewer than 70 points and 11-0 when it gets more than 70.
Tennessee: Hosts Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
South Carolina: Heads to Florida on Wednesday.
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