THAT JUST HAPPENED: Newly-stressful Vols escape, 70-67

Grant Williams with the final score of the game • photo by Bill Foster

 

There’s not much to say about Tennessee’s 70-67 victory over South Carolina except: Tennessee needs to recover from their win at Kentucky immediately.

 

South Carolina was visibly outmatched in this game, but the Vols continue to look like a streaky, messy version of their pre-Kentucky selves. All the pieces are still there, all the weapons still functional, but everything feels uncomfortable on the floor now. That said, Tennessee did find a way to grit out this hard fought game, and there’s merit in that.

 

But Tennessee, in every facet, should’ve wiped the floor with this South Carolina team. The Vols had motivation, in the wake of their thunderously embarrassing loss at Alabama over the weekend. They had a relatively large (for a Tuesday and a late one at that) crowd who were into it. And they had an extreme, vivid, depth advantage. But the trauma of last week’s emotional thrill-ride continues to weird out Tennessee’s usually-potent chemistry and execution.

 

I have a long-standing method, when picking my bracket, to see which teams have wild, emotional wins in the major conference finals. And I pick them to exit in the first two rounds. You can always see the ones that feel like they got somewhere special enough and far enough. The worry now is that Tennessee’s historic sweep of Kentucky was the accomplishment that finally knocked the chip off of Tennessee’s shoulder. Tennessee is still a visually strong team, but if there isn’t anything left to prove, their exciting night against Kentucky is going to help the Bulldogs beat Tennessee at Georgia, and likely will help the Gators when they come to Knoxville next week.

 

Can Rick Barnes find a way to make Tennessee hungry again? Or will the Kentucky-Victory food coma make the Vols sleep through the main course?

 

The Vols (19-6, 9-4) are back in action at Georgia Saturday at 6pm, and will show on the SEC Network.

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