Shocking upset: South Carolina wins

Marvin Westwestwords

Give this some thought: Did South Carolina win the game or did No. 5 Tennessee lose it?

The Gamecocks got more points, 63-59, normally the deciding factor in Southeastern Conference basketball. The visitors dictated pace. They were alert, aggressive rebounders and got a few more than the home team. They did not fold under pressure.

The Volunteers missed 10 point-blank layups and a dunk attempt, missed eight free throws and went almost seven minutes without a field goal. They got little or nothing from some top players. They played hard but Rick Barnes said they lacked focus. Indeed, it seemed there was some standing around and waiting for Dalton Knecht to do it.

Knecht made it relatively close. He scored 31.

He was far less than razor sharp for most of the game. He went 17 minutes in the second half without a goal. He delivered an unbelievable closing effort – a jumper from the side, a drive to the rim, a floating 10-footer and a pair of dramatic threes.

Knecht was the only Tennessee shooter in the three-minute show. He really tried to save the evening. He ran out of time.

For sure, the stunning upset of the Volunteers at friendly Food City Center was a really big deal for South Carolina. It was a signature win for coach Lamont Paris, known in these parts as the former coach at Chattanooga.

In something of a surprise, the victors did not turn cartwheels or try to sing or dance the school fight song. They shook hands and walked away as if they were accustomed to success. They are 18-3. They did defeat Kentucky. The Vols are 15-5. They play at Kentucky on Saturday night.

Barnes gave South Carolina full credit for what it did well but he was blunt in his overall assessment.

“We didn’t deserve to win this game.”

This was obviously Tennessee’s worst performance of the year, the first home loss, the lowest point total and a scary 36.2 field-goal percentage. That was bad. South Carolina shot 33.9.

Defense had something to do with the numbers. The Gamecocks’ offense was a factor. It is deliberate on purpose. Tennessee allowed 10 threes.

Barnes said the Vols met every defensive expectation.

“I guarantee it. But we’re not going to beat them being that pathetic on offense. They’re going to make some shots. I mean, they’ve lost three games…we’re not going to stop guys from shooting the ball and they give them credit, they made those shots.

“They scored what, 63 points? Our goal is to try to keep people under 69. It wasn’t defense. We were just a really poor offensive team tonight.”

Santiago Vescovi tried to provide a spark. He was four-for-seven as a shooter (two threes), worked hard on defense and contributed an inspirational steal and break-away. Tobe Awaka had eight rebounds and six points.

Santiago Vescovi #25 takes the ball to the basket.

Some others fell below normal production. Zakai Zeigler missed all six field-goal tries and two of his four free throws. Jonas Aidoo missed a layup for openers and only scored six points. Josiah-Jordan James extended his offensive slump but did score one basket.

South Carolina’s leading scorer for the season, Meechie Johnson, hit one of seven shots, a three. Ta’lon Cooper scored 18 and nailed four of five threes. Big man B.J. Mack, 6-8 and 277, scored 16. Myles Stute, transfer from Vanderbilt, scored 13.

Barnes was asked what was wrong with Aidoo.

“I can’t answer that. I wish I could, I really wish I could.”

So, how about Ziggy?

“He started pressing and started losing his overall place in terms of what we need him to do on offense and defense.”

Barnes was asked if the Vols might have found false confidence in the way they overcame a poor first half at Vanderbilt? He said that was a pretty good question.

“You know, maybe thinking that we can pick and choose when we play and that got into tonight. I don’t know how to answer that. Players have to answer that but if that was the case, it got answered.”

Barnes said the team better understand that it isn’t good enough to just show up.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is


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