As the Gamecocks found strength in senior forward Chris Silva Tuesday night, their inconsistency and young talent did not withstand the No. 1 Volunteers.
"We came out and didn't play the way that we spoke about trying to play today," head coach Frank Martin said. "Ain't no lesson be learned today. We got manhandled. We played a real physical team and we tried for a little while, but we couldn't sustain the discipline and the toughness that you got to have to get to the finish line against a team like Tennessee."
Even with the 22 points from Silva in the first half, South Carolina did not continue their momentum going into the second half on offense. Tennessee took advantage of the freshmen on the court and were able to take a 15-point lead with seven minutes left in the game.
"On the interior no one helped him," Martin said. "He's dealing with Alexander, he's dealing with Grant Williams, he's dealing with Admiral Schofield — those are some big, old, strong dudes. Chris is in that fight by himself. I just think he wore down a little bit."
There was nothing different that the Volunteers did in the second half. Silva said he gave everything he had as he scored 28 points overall, and that he could have done a better job of asking for the ball in the second half.
"Chris always brings good energy," freshman A.J. Lawson said. "He's always talking to us and encouraging us like a good leader. Just gotta, as a team, help him out when he's having a great game like that, giving him more touches second half."
Martin said he was disappointed in the performance for his guards and described the game as a downhill progression for the Gamecocks. He said South Carolina never dug in and fought, instead the Gamecocks were on back-peddle mode the whole game.
"The emotion of the building didn't impact them. What impacted them was the guys wearing orange," Martin said. "They screen and they hit my freshman and what happens is because they don't want to get hit, because they run into screens, because you play a team that runs screens ... they start running around the screen ... and then you're in trouble."
Lawson scored nine points, and he said he needs to stay more consistent and pick it up each game by reading his defense better.
Despite Martin's freshmen wearing down, Martin said he will look to Hassani Gravett and Felipe Haase to do better and help feed their team. Competing against the top-ranked opponent taught Lawson about what it takes to get to the top despite the loss.
"Just effort play," Lawson said. "They did a good job on effort play. The 50-50 balls, the rebounds, we gotta do the same. Play as hard as you can each game and just mentally prepare ourself better and lock in when the time comes."