KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The no. 1 ranked Vols are preparing for Wednesday's game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The two teams previously met on Jan. 29 in Columbia, South Carolina. Tennessee won that game 92-70, with Admiral Schofield scoring a team-high 24 points.
Head coach Rick Barnes previewed the upcoming game on Monday in his weekly press conference.
"I think anytime you're going up against South Carolina, I think you know they're going to play extremely hard and a physical game," Barnes said. "They compete as hard as anybody that you're going to play against and that's what we expect."
Despite losing by 22, South Carolina did not make things easy for the Vols in the first meeting. The Gamecocks trailed by nine points at halftime, and then lowered the Tennessee lead to two points in the second half. All-SEC forward Chris Silva led South Carolina with 28 points and 10 rebounds.
"If you talk to our players, they have as much respect for him, and how hard he plays, as anybody we compete against," Barnes said of Silva. "We have tried to guard him the best we can...it's hard to keep a guy like that from not being effective."
Looking beyond Wednesday's game, the Vols visit no. 5 ranked Kentucky on Saturday. Some wonder if the upcoming heavyweight match-up will prevent the Vols from fully focusing on South Carolina.
"I think our guys have so much respect for South Carolina and they understand where they are right now," Barnes said. "I think that you've got to be so locked in on your next opponent."
Wednesday's game starts at 6:30 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena and will be televised on SEC Network. With a win, Tennessee earns their 19th consecutive victory.