GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Volunteers and the South Carolina Gamecocks both try to halt losing streaks on Sunday afternoon, as the two teams meet in a SEC showdown at Colonial Life Arena.
Tennessee has lost back-to-back games, falling at Arkansas on Feb. 2 (73-60) and most recently on its home floor to Georgia on Wednesday night, 68-62. Despite carrying an above-.500 record overall (11-10), the Vols are just 3-6 in SEC action.
South Carolina is one of the few teams in the league that have performed more poorly than Tennessee in conference play, as it has lost seven of nine SEC bouts. The Gamecocks are mired in a season-long, three-game losing streak, which includes a 77-55 road loss to Kentucky on Tuesday. The current slide has all but spoiled first-year head coach Frank Martin's stellar 10-3 start to the campaign.
Tennessee has claimed 11 straight victories over South Carolina since 2007 to extend its lead in the all-time series to 37-23.
Despite losing by just six points on Wednesday, Tennessee never once led Georgia, as the Bulldogs' hot shooting ruined strong showings for the Vols both from the field (.462) and the foul line (.821). Jarnell Stokes tallied 16 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth consecutive double-double and his eighth of the season, while Jordan McRae finished with 17 points despite missing all five of his 3-point attempts. The Vols' biggest strength this season has been their scoring defense, which yields only 62.4 ppg, but they barely score enough points (63.8 ppg) to support it. McRae nets 14.0 ppg and has climbed the scoring charts in recent weeks by pouring in 17 points or more in seven of the past 10 games. Stokes is one of the most reliable big men in the SEC, shooting 56 percent from the field for 12.0 ppg while adding 8.5 rpg and nearly a block per contest. Trae Golden (10.0 ppg) makes up for a poor field goal percentage (.352) with a stellar 75-to-35 assist-to-turnover ration.
South Carolina was thoroughly overmatched in its latest bout, getting outshot by Kentucky from the field by a convincing margin (.614 to .288). It was one of the squad's worst offensive performances of the year, and only Michael Carrera finished the game in double figures, scoring 18 points on 6-of-10 from the field. The Gamecocks are usually much more potent in the scoring column, pouring in 68.5 ppg, but they also give up nearly as many points (68.3 ppg) to the opposition. Carrera is a consistent force in the frontcourt, tallying 10.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg. Brenton Williams (10.3 ppg) and Bruce Ellington (10.2 ppg) are solid in the backcourt, and Lakeem Jackson (8.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) joins Carrera in the paint. Coach Martin incorporates a heavy rotation, mixing and matching 11 players for nearly a different starting lineup every game, with only Jackson having started all 22 games.
In a matchup between struggling squads, the edge has to go to South Carolina, not only because of its favorable 8-5 home record but because of Tennessee's overall futility away from Knoxville (0-6).
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