Tennessee (11-10, 3-6 SEC) at South Carolina (12-10, 2-7 SEC)
Sunday, Feb. 10, 1:00 p.m. ET
Colonial Life Arena (18,000) . Columbia, S.C.
TV: Fox Sports South
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Tennessee leads, 37-23
Probable South Carolina Starters
F-Lakeem Jackson, 6-5, 235, SR, (8.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
F-Michael Carrera, 6-5, 212, FR, (10.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
G-Brian Richardson, 6-4, 175, JR, (8.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
G-Brenton Williams, 5-11, 175, JR, (10.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
G-Bruce Ellington, 6-3, 200, JR, (10.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Key Reserves: Mindaugas Kacinas (6-7, 210, FR); Eric Smith (5-11, 205, FR); RJ Slawson (6-8, 220, JR); Laimonas Chatkevicius (6-11, 255, FR)
Probable Tennessee Starters
F-Kenny Hall, 6-9, 230, SR, (6.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 270, SO, (12.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, .560 FG%)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 188, SO, (8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
G-Armani Moore, 6-5, 200, FR, (2.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg,)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-1, 205, JR, (14.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.9 apg)
Key Reserves: Brandon Lopez (6-1, 180, SO); Skylar McBee (6-3, 195, SR); Yemi Makanjuola (6-9, 250, SO); Derek Reese (6-7, 218, FR); *Trae Golden (6-2, 205, JR) *questionable with hamstring injury
The opening tip
Beating South Carolina is one of the few constants for the Vols over the past several years. Tennessee has topped the Gamecocks 11 consecutive times dating to 2007. Nobody on the current roster knows the feeling of losing to South Carolina.
But that streak could be in some degree of jeopardy Sunday. The Vols limp into Columbia on a two-game losing streak after a poor showing at home on Wednesday night in a 68-62 loss to Georgia.
Point guard Trae Golden, the team’s top reserve, remains questionable with a hamstring injury.
Despite some of his personal struggles this season, UT has missed his ball handling in its last two games. His absence has put an added strain on the backcourt of Jordan McRae, Armani Moore and Josh Richardson, who have all played additional minutes and have helped in the ball-handling responsibilities with Golden out.
The Gamecocks have been hard to get a read on this season. New coach Frank Martin brings a winning pedigree from his time at Kansas State and he has them playing at a higher level than in reasons seasons. Point guard Bruce Ellington and versatile forward Michael Carrera have been bright spots for a squad bouncing back from a 10-21 campaign last season.
They’re still a work in progress, though. They’ve lost five of their last six, but a convincing 75-54 win over Arkansas, a team that beat UT by 13, on Jan. 26 is evidence that the Gamecocks can be dangerous.
Regardless of the opponent, the Vols have really struggled on the road this season. They’ve lost all six true road contests this season and must quickly figure out a way to reverse that trend with five road games remaining on the schedule.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on what he told his team after the loss to Georgia: “You have to have pride in what you’re doing. You have to have commitment and pride. That’s the bottom line. You have to have pride to represent Tennessee the right way and represent each other.”
Forward Jarnell Stokes has four consecutive double-doubles coming into Sunday’s contest. . UT swingman D’Montre Edwards is a South Carolina native. . This is the first meeting between Cuonzo Martin and Frank Martin. . Depending on other weekend action, a loss could put the Vols in a tie for last in the SEC. . The Vols already have as many conference losses (6) as they did all of 2011-12. . If Golden remains out, the Vols will be without their top two scorers from 2011-12 – Golden and forward Jeronne Maymon (knee). Those two combined to average 26.3 ppg last season. . The Vols and Gamecocks are tied for fourth in the league in rebounding margin (+5), but they’re also two of the worst squads in the SEC in turnover margin. South Carolina is 12th (-1.59), while the Vols are 13th (-2.14).
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga