The South Carolina men’s basketball team failed to take care of the ball in its 66-46 loss to No. 22 Tennessee on Tuesday night.
The Volunteers’ constant pressure on defense forced the Gamecocks to make mistakes the team could not overcome. South Carolina committed 23 turnovers for the game, 12 of which came in the first half.
Tennessee was able to take advantage of this all game, scoring 21 points off South Carolina turnovers.
“We just got to take care of the ball, I mean of course they are guarding us, but we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” graduate student guard James Reese said.
Early in the second half, the Gamecocks committed four turnovers in a span of less than two minutes, allowing the Volunteers to go on a 9-2 run, extending their lead to 13 points.
“We come out to start the second half and it’s turnover-layup-turnover-layup-turnover-layup, and now you’re down 12 on the road trying to climb that hill,” head coach Frank Martin said.
Junior point guard Jermaine Couisnard and senior forward Keyshawn Bryant each committed a team-high of four turnovers. Five Gamecocks committed at least three turnovers.
Turnovers have been an issue for the Gamecocks since starting SEC play. In each of its last three games, the team has committed at least 20 turnovers. Reese said he knows the team has to address the issues.
“We out there for a reason, you know, we got to make the plays,” Reese said. “It’s not really anything special, we just got to take care of the ball, catch the ball, just be the players that got us here.”
The first half was a competitive defensive battle, which would have been a one-possession game by halftime had it not been for a 3-point buzzer-beater from Tennessee guard Josiah Jordan James.
The Volunteers won the battle on the glass, grabbing 40 rebounds to the Gamecocks' 38. South Carolina usually relies on its physicality inside to get offensive rebounds for second-chance points.
Martin was disappointed with the way the bigs played. Junior forward Wildens Leveque struggled in the game, going 0-3 from the floor with five rebounds in 24 minutes of action. The other forwards failed to step up and South Carolina suffered from it.
“Wildens probably had the first bad performance this year, not from an effort standpoint and caring, he just didn’t play well today,” Martin said. “Very disappointing that no one else, none of the other big guys stepped up — they gave us nothing, we got nothing offensively or defensively.”
Defensively, the Gamecocks held Tennessee to 33% from behind the 3-point line. The Volunteers managed to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line, but luckily for South Carolina, Tennessee shot 44%, going 11-25.
Reese finished with a game-high 15 points and grabbed five rebounds along the way. No other Gamecock scored double digits.
South Carolina will look to bounce back on Saturday when it hosts Florida at Colonial Life Arena at 1 p.m. on the SEC network.