Tennessee’s men’s basketball team won the game Tuesday night, but it lost some of the progress it had made in the back court.
Vols coach Rick Barnes made it clear he was displeased with his guards in the wake of No. 18 Tennessee’s 70-67 victory over South Carolina at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“We had a couple of chances to stretch it out, but really, poor guard play,” Barnes said on his postgame show on the Vols Network. “You can’t make the kind of plays we made throwing the ball out of bounds, shot clock violations, and that’s guard play.”
Tennessee (19-6, 9-4 SEC) led by as many as 14 points in the second half before the Gamecocks (13-13, 4-9) closed to one.
Sophomore power forward Grant Williams led the Vols with 22 points and 5 rebounds with 2 blocked shots. Junior wing Admiral Schofield had 14 points and 4 rebounds as the Vols won their sixth straight home game.
“Grant and Admiral could have had a bunch, they just didn’t get the ball enough,” Barnes lamented. “We shot 24 3s tonight, and Grant was 7 for 10 [shooting] and Admiral was 6 for 9. They should have touched the ball more than they did.”
It marked the third consecutive game in which Tennessee had more turnovers (15) than assists (12).
Barnes said the guards — James Daniel III, Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner — should understand he wants to play an inside-out style.
“I just have to get our guards after 25 games to know that,” Barnes said. “You can’t be dribbling the ball out of bounds and going inside trying to up-and-under when you’ve got guys wide open … “
Daniel had 4 turnovers without an assist and he was 1-of-6 shooting in the 26 minutes he played.
Bone, who started at point guard, had 4 assists, no turnovers and was 1-of-3 shooting in 15 minutes.
Turner was 3-of-6 shooting with 2 assists and 2 turnovers.
Barnes explained that Bone doesn’t fare as well when teams change defenses, as South Carolina is prone to do, but he second-guessed himself for playing Daniel down the stretch.
South Carolina’s ability to put pressure on the ball contributed to Tennessee’s struggles in the half court, but Barnes said his team needs to handle the situation better.
“You have to be poised enough not to be run out of what you’re trying to do,” Barnes said.
The Vols, projected as a No. 4 seed last Sunday by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, remained No. 13 in the RPI after the win over South Carolina.
Tennessee returns to action at 6 p.m. Saturday at Georgia. The Bulldogs (13-11, 4-8) have lost three straight entering their game at Florida (17-8, 8-4) at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
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