Grant Williams-led Vols hold off Gamecocks, 70-67

Grant Williams-led Vols hold off Gamecocks, 70-67

February 13th, 2018 by David Cobb in Sports - College

Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) is defended by South Carolina guard Wesley Myers (15) and forward Maik Kotsar, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Crystal LoGiudice)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) goes up for a shot beside South Carolina forward Jason Cudd during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Crystal LoGiudice)

Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) goes up for...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — When Tennessee beat South Carolina on the road last month, Jordan Bowden went scoreless, Grant Williams had a quiet night and the Volunteers' bench took a starring role.

The rematch followed a different and considerably more dramatic script.

Williams, Bowden and Admiral Schofield combined for 49 points and helped No. 18 Tennessee withstand a persistent South Carolina team in a 70-67 win for the Vols on Tuesday night.

Williams put Tennessee ahead 70-67 on a turnaround jump shot with 11 seconds to go, and the Vols forced a Justin Minaya miss at the final buzzer.

"I didn't need my college degree to know where they were going with the ball there," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.

Williams finished with a game-high 22 points, his most in a game since scoring a career-high 37 at Vanderbilt on Jan. 9.

Martin said the Gamecocks "kind of" got the look they wanted on the final possession as Minaya took a dribble hand off and rose for a 3-pointer contested by Tennessee guard James Daniel.

The game put the Vols (19-6, 9-4 SEC) back in the win column after a 78-50 loss at Alabama on Saturday. 

Defensively, this was a much better defensive showing for Tennessee than the Alabama game, Rick Barnes said. But the third year Tennessee coach took issue with the play of his guards on a night when Tennessee outscored its opponent 30-20 in the paint as the Gamecocks dealt with foul trouble on their interior.

"We shot 24 threes tonight," Barnes said. "Grant was 7-for-10 and Admiral was 6-for-9 and they played pretty much inside. They should have touched the ball a lot more than they did."

Tennessee had more turnovers (15) than assists (13) for a third straight game.

"I thought when we had chances to really get the game going and get really total control of it, which we were close to having a couple times, just poor guard play," Barnes said. "Turnovers and tough shots that we didn't have to take.

South Carolina (13-13, 4-9 SEC) had lost five games in a row entering the contest, including the last three by at least 16 points. But the struggling Gamecocks answered when Tennessee took a 61-47 lead on a pair of Williams free throws with 10:01 remaining.

The Gamecocks went on a 10-0 run, and Tennessee struggled to finish. The Vols went more than three minutes before without a basket before Williams' late jump shot put Tennessee ahead by three.

"The theme with our basketball team is it comes down to one stop," Martin said. "And the defensive assignment that we laid out is not executed. Listening has been a weakness for this team the whole year. But with all that said, I'm real happy for Rick (Barnes)."

The Vols entered the night tied for second with Florida, which hosts Georgia on Wednesday night. Tennessee plays at Georgia on Saturday.

Bowden added 14 points and Schofield scored 13 for Tennessee.

A crowd of 13,126 for the 9 p.m. game was the third-smallest of the year at Thompson-Boling Arena, but it punched above its weight by voicing its displeasure with the officiating during a tightly called game that had a total of 40 fouls.

Twelve players saw action in the first half for South Carolina as post players Felipe Haase and Malik Kotsar each picked up three fouls. Second-leading scorer Chris Silva played only 10 minutes as he picked up two fouls in the half after scoring eight of South Carolina's first 17 points.

Tennessee opened a 27-17 lead after Silva checked out, but the makeshift Gamecocks lineups drew within four points at halftime.

The foul trouble was more widespread for South Carolina, but Tennessee also played without starting center Kyle Alexander for the half's final 12 minutes after he picked up his second foul. Alexander finished with no points and one rebound in nine minutes after going scoreless with four rebounds against Alabama.

"I think he was ready to start," Barnes said of Alexander, who blocked a shot on the game's opening possession. "I think he was ready. But when they went zone, we felt like we wanted to get more offense out there...We just felt like Admiral and Grant were locked in."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.


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