TV SCHEDULE: Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 at 9:00 PM on SEC Network
LOCATION: Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee
The Tennessee Volunteers will look to bolster and maintain their current standing in the Southeastern Conference with a game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks, struggling with a 5-9 overall record this year, are looking for only their fourth win in conference play as they are tied for second to last in the SEC.
The Volunteers will come out smelling blood at Thompson-Boling arena after losing by 13 to LSU on Saturday. Previously, the Volunteers rattled off wins against Georgia (8 points) and Kentucky (11 points). On defense, the Volunteers have been outstanding. They have held opponents to around 62 points per game which is top-15 in the nation.
Further, the Volunteers have kept opponents to a 46.4% field goal percentage from two-point range and an overall 40.2% field goal percentage – both good for the top 75 in the nation. From three-point range, opponents are barely hitting 30% of their shots against the Tennessee squad which ranks the Volunteer as 30th in the nation.
In his last three games, freshman Jaden Springer has starred and carried the Rick Barnes-led Volunteers. Springer has hit 57.1% of his field goals on 14 shots per game including 50% from three over the last three games. Even more impressive, Springer continues to fill up the stat sheet with five rebounds per game and three assists per game coupled with 1.3 steals per game and 1.3 blocks per game. Springer is an all-around threat for the Volunteers.
Despite having junior guard A.J. Lawson lead the team, the Gamecocks are coming off three straight losses. This Frank Martin team has not had the most typical year with almost a month between games starting from early December and lasting until early January. The constant stop and go have an obvious effect on the Gamecocks as they’ve experienced two three-game losing streaks so far this year.
Junior guard A.J. Lawson is having the best season of his three-year career under Head Coach Frank Martin with the South Carolina Gamecocks Lawson’s offensive rating has increased 14 points since his freshman year from 102.2 to 116 (5th best in the SEC) in 2021.
Specifically, Lawson is averaging a career-high 19.1 points in conference play, a seven-point increase from one year ago. Lawson may be the only bright spot for the South Carolina Gamecocks right now and he is definitely worth keeping an eye on during any game.
Lawson is currently top ten in the SEC in field goal percentage, steals per game, offensive rating, three-point field goal percentage, points per game, and turnover percentage. If Lawson had a solid supporting cast, he may be in the conversation for SEC Player of the Year. However, with a sub-.500 team, it is hard to make that case for Lawson.
The South Carolina Gamecocks will finish their season with four more games against conference opponents; Missouri, at Mississippi State, at Georgia, and against Vanderbilt. The Volunteers, still fighting for seeding, will finish off their regular season with a home game against Kentucky followed by two away contests against Vanderbilt and Auburn, respectively.
PREDICTION: Tennessee Volunteers 83, South Carolina Gamecocks 68