COLUMBIA, S.C. – Another double-double by Jarnell Stokes and clutch 3-pointers by Jordan McRae and Skylar McBee lifted the Vols to their first road win of the season, 66-61, over South Carolina, at Colonial Life Arena on Sunday.
Stokes continued to exert his power as he recorded his fifth consecutive double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. That included five offensive rebounds, including two crucial ones in the final minutes. It was Stokes’ second-career 20-point game and ninth double-double of the season. The sophomore also contributed four blocks against the undersized Gamecocks.
Junior guard Trae Golden returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a hamstring injury and tallied 16 points, his most points in nearly two months.
“Trae Golden came in and hadn’t played in a week or so,” Cuonzo Martin said. “He was 8-for-10 from the line and I thought he did a good job of being aggressive. That’s the old Trae Golden. He is aggressive.”
The Vols (12-10, 4-6 SEC) have now won 12 consecutive games vs. South Carolina, winning every meeting since 2007, including six in a row in Columbia.
“It was a good road win for our guys – It was a battle,” coach Cuonzo Maritn said. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster trying to get wins on the road and losing tough games. To finally get a road win, it feels good. We will go back home then it’s back to work. But it was a good effort by our guys and they continue to compete.”
South Carolina (12-11, 2-8 SEC) was led by forward Michael Carrera, who had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Brian Richardson tallied 14 points.
The game was tied 12 times and the lead changed hands 16 times. Neither team led by more than seven points all afternoon.
McRae picked a great time for his first basket of the game after missing his first five shots. He knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:30 left to give the Vols a 58-57 lead, forcing coach Frank Martin to call a South Carolina timeout. Tennessee never looked back.
Ellington missed a trey on the ensuring possession. Stokes then corralled an offensive rebound off a Golden miss which was converted by Skylar McBee for another 3-pointer. That put the Vols ahead by two possessions with less than two minutes left, 61-57.
“I’m just trying to keep my motor going,” Stokes said. “I’m trying to get every rebound on every play. It’s one of those things where I just don’t want to take any plays off. That’s something I think I’ve done in the past.”
Golden added two more free throws with 46.8 left in regulation to put the Vol ahead 63-58. McRae sealed the game with two more foul shots with 24 seconds left, as the Vols equalled their largest lead of the game at seven, 65-58.
McBee’s first 3-pointer of game regained the Vols lead at 54-52 with 5:35 left, but Carrera answered with a jumper to re-tie the game at 54 with 4:40 left.
The Vols used an 8-0 run to rally from a 39-36 deficit to take a 44-39 lead as Golden turned up his game. The guard reeled off six consecutive points to put the Vols back in front by two possessions with 12:48 left in the second half.
South Carolina responded with a 10-2 spurt to regain the lead at 49-46 with 10 minutes left in regulation on a layup by Brian Richardson.
Tennessee held a 32-29 lead at halftime led by Stokes’ 12 points. For the first 15:45 of the game, neither team led by more than one possession in the first half as the largest margin for both teams was three.
The Vols ripped off a 6-0 run including the first four points from Golden in his return to action. Stokes’ tip-in with 3:52 left pushed the lead to 28-21 – the largest of the half.
The teams were virtually even for the first 11 minutes as neither team led by more than two points. The game was tied six times and the lead changes hands five times after a Stokes layup with 9:40 left in the first half. That tied the game at 16.
Coach Cuonzo Martin expanded his bench in the win. With the return of Golden and rare minutes for D’Montre Edwards and Quinton Chievous, every healthy scholarship player on the roster saw action.
“Chievous hadn’t played a lot, Edwards, too,” Cuonzo Martin said.”They came in and gave us big minutes. So I thought that was good.”
The Vols return to action on Wednesday night as Tennessee plays at Vanderbilt. That game airs on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Vol Network at 7 p.m.