Volunteers, with stronger inside play, in second half, send Gamecocks down to 18th defeat

After tight play over the first 20 minutes of action in a Southeastern Conference (SEC) matchup Sat. night (Feb. 25), Tennessee and host South Carolina retired at intermission with the visiting Volunteers, from Rocky Top, nursing a scant two point (34-32) lead.

But with a briefing at the break, which obviously emphasized doing more pounding in the paint, the Vols (16-13, 8-6 SEC), thanks to stronger inside play, in the second half, exited Colonial Life Arena with a 73-64 win over the homestanding Gamecocks (10-18, 2-12).

The defeat by Darrin Horn’s last in SEC standings Gamecocks was their 11th consecutive to Tennessee; all happening under the questionable leadership of Horn, who is heading fast toward his third straight losing campaign at South Carolina.

In separating themselves from a Gamecocks team that managed to make it a competitive game over the first half, Cuonzo Martin’s Vols, with game-changing play in the paint, on both sides of the court, took control of the action with a 16-7 run over the first eight minutes of second half play, as they built a 50-39 advantage, with 12:16 remaining.

Martin cited the play of his Volunteers in the first eight minutes of the second half as crucial to the outcome of the game; but made it clear that they should’ve done even more in the paint.

“That was where we got it going, in the first eight minutes or so of the second half; but we should’ve gone inside more,” said the first year Tennessee coach. “But, I thought our shooting in the first half helped us a lot, also. We seemed to answer them when had to have a basket.”

Bemoaning the inability of his Gamecocks to make baskets consistently enough opposite the Vols, Darrin Horn chose to look to the future… a time that will be the past a lot sooner than later.

“Every time we seemed like we were chipping away and getting close; they hit a timely shot or got something at the end of a fast break,” said the South Carolina coach, nearing the end of his fourth year at the helm of the Gamecocks basketball program. “We’ve just got to find a way to make shots when we need them… in a way to make improvements (from game-to-game).”

In falling to the Vols, the Gamecocks were outrebounded 38-32 and outscored in the paint 34-26.

South Carolina was scheduled to have closed out the home phase of its 2011-2012 campaign with a game against SEC opponent Mississippi State this past Wednesday (Feb. 29).