Will Olivier Nkamhoua miss a shot in 2023?
Tennessee's senior forward scored 21 points on 10-of-10 shooting and also grabbed 10 rebounds Saturday afternoon as the No. 8 Volunteers dismantled South Carolina 85-42 inside Colonial Life Arena. The 6-foot-9, 236-pounder from Helsinki, Finland, is 15-of-15 in this calendar year, having made all five of his shots during Tuesday night's 87-53 bashing of Mississippi State in Knoxville.
"If I don't need to, I won't," a smiling Nkamhoua told reporters after the Vols improved to 13-2 overall and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play. "I've just been taking shots in rhythm and taking them in my spots and taking shots that I know I'm good at."
Nkamhoua tied a Tennessee single-game record for the most made baskets without a miss, equalling the 10-for-10 showing Mike Jackson had during a 1974 win over Missouri, and it certainly gave him a better Palmetto State memory. In last February's trip to the same venue, Nkamhoua sustained an ankle injury that forced him to miss the season's final 13 games.
"When he plays well is really and truly when he gets locked into doing anything other than thinking about scoring," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "I know he wants to be a complete player."
Said sophomore forward Jonas Aidoo: "Olivier has been outstanding."
Aidoo added 15 points while senior guards Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi each scored 12 as the Vols recorded their third-largest road victory in program history. Saturday marked the biggest road rout for Tennessee since a 96-50 humbling of Ole Miss in Oxford on Feb. 8, 1965.
Tennessee's 34-point win over Mississippi State was its largest in that series, which has a 1924 starting point.
"This team works and deserves to be where they are right now," Barnes said, "and they're smart enough to know that there are so many ways we can get better. They understand that we're just now putting our team together with everybody."
The Gamecocks under first-year coach Lamont Paris dropped to 7-8 overall and 0-2 in SEC play.
Tennessee entered the game as a 17.5-point favorite and bolted to a 12-3 lead before the first media timeout, grabbing an 8-0 advantage within the first three minutes on the strength of 3-pointers by Julian Phillips and Nkamhoua. A Zakai Zeigler 3 at the 14:23 mark gave the Vols their first double-digit bulge at 15-3.
A Vescovi 3 just before the horn made it 43-21 at the break, giving the Vols their largest halftime lead as a road team in the eight seasons under Barnes. Nkamhoua had 11 first-half points on 5-for-5 shooting, and Tennessee shot 60.7% in the first 20 minutes (17-of-28) and 62.5% from 3-point range (5-of-8).
The Vols continued the onslaught in the second half, taking a 59-28 lead on an Aidoo 3-pointer with 15:17 remaining and extending it to 71-30 on a Nkamhoua dunk with 11:14 left. Tennessee shot 51.5% for the game (35-of-68), which included a 45.5% clip from long distance (10-of-22).
"I thought there were a lot of good things," Barnes said. "It was a great effort."
That effort contained more suffocating defense, as Gamecocks five-star freshman forward Gregory "GG" Jackson was held scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting and committed four turnovers. Jackson had scored double figures in each of South Carolina's first 14 games.
"He's handled all this stuff so well so far," Paris said. "Today he did not."
Vanderbilt (8-7, 1-1) visits Tennessee on Tuesday night in the next opportunity to see if Nkamhoua will miss, and Nkamhoua was asked if he had any concerns about complacency setting in.
"We all know who our coach is, and that answers that," Nkamhoua said.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com.