March 7, 2015
|GAMECOCK MEN’S BASKETBALL|
|South Carolina (15-15, 6-12 SEC)||36||24||60|
|Tennessee (15-15, 7-11 SEC)||21||28||49|
|Michael Carrera & Coach Martin|
KNOXVILLE, TENN. – The South Carolina men’s basketball team closed out the regular season in a big way Saturday afternoon, taking down Tennessee on the road with a 60-49 win. Four Gamecocks reached double figures in scoring, led by 14 from Michael Carrera. The win evens the team’s record at 15-15, 6-12 in the SEC, while Tennessee falls back to 15-15 and 7-11 in conference play.
After making nearly 60 percent of its shots in the first meeting back on Jan. 20, the Volunteers threatened to repeat their performance early in the game. Converting on four of its first five attempts, Tennessee jumped out to an early 10-5 lead before Carolina put its foot on the gas offensively.
Boosted by 3s on back-to-back possessions from Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell, the Gamecocks hit a stretch where the team made five straight field goals and 9-of-11 from the 16-minute mark until eight minutes remained in the half. It entered that streak trailing 6-2, but emerged with a 26-14 lead after a jumper by Michael Carrera, who scored six points in that stretch.
The home side’s fast start quickly devolved into a major slump. The 4-of-5 start was followed with just three field goals in the final 15:29 of the game. Carolina’s lead would climb as high as 15 points and it carried a sizable 36-21 lead into intermission. Of that total, 16 points came in the paint and 13 were directly off turnovers.
The Gamecocks shot 62 percent from the field (13-of-21) with 11 assists. Carrera and Notice led the way with eight apiece, while Tyrone Johnson added five points and three assists. It marked the third straight game that the team scored 36 points or more in the opening half.
Both teams would come out of halftime slowly before the offenses kicked back into gear. After missing six of its first seven shots, Carolina made 4-of-5 to maintain a double-digit lead before Tennessee used a 9-0 run in just 90 seconds to get back in contention, 47-38.
A three-point play from Laimonas Chatkevicius broke a three-minute scoring drought for the Gamecocks and broke up the Tennessee run, but the offense continued to struggle down the stretch. After three minutes without a field goal, a key turnover would quiet the crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena. Notice would hit a transition layup, and on the ensuing possession Mindaugas Kacinas stepped in front of a pass in the paint and earned Notice another easy layup and a 56-43 lead with 2:25 to go.
That would prove to be a major difference, as the two baskets put a comeback out of reach for the home team. Despite seven 3-pointers in the second half alone from Tennessee, Carolina was able to kill off the clock and hit four straight free throws to seal the win.
After trailing early, the Gamecocks hit 9-of-11 field goals in an eight-minute span to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 26-14 lead. The Volunteers would get no closer than five points over the final 28 minutes of regulation.
KEY STAT The Gamecocks dominated inside, doubling up the Volunteers with a 28-14 advantage in scoring from the paint. The team’s three main post players (Carrera, Chatkevicius, Kacinas) combined to shoot 11-of-18 from the field to power the offense.
- The 15 wins for the season and six SEC wins are the most since the 2009-10 season.
- The road win snaps a 15-game losing streak overall to the Volunteers, and the first win at Thompson-Boling since 2002. The last win in the series came in 2007.
- Michael Carrera led the team in scoring and rebounding with 14 and seven, respectively. It is his third double-digit scoring effort in the last five games, and sixth for the season.
- The offensive had 16 assists on 21 baskets, and four players with two or more assists. Carolina is 10-2 when handing out 15 or more assists in a game so far this season.
QUOTABLE South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin
On the Team’s Improving Offense
“Last three games we’ve kind of played more through the identity that we’ve created through the early part of January. Our field goal percentage as a team are a high 45, 47 and our assist numbers were through the roof. Unfortunately, we went through a stretch in SEC play with a young team. We missed some shots, lost some games. Our confidence kind of got hit. We shot 50-percent last game, 51 today and we got 47 I wanna say against Mississippi State. These guys have been putting in the time. They don’t give in. They put in the time and now the ball’s going in the basket for them.”
South Carolina travels to the SEC Tournament next week in Nashville, Tenn. Look for the final bracket to be released late Saturday night following the conclusion of the day’s games.
TWEETS OF THE GAME