South Carolina Basketball: 3 thumbs up, 3 thumbs down from road win over Tennessee

South Carolina basketball defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 63-59 in Knoxville on Tuesday night.

South Carolina basketball seniors Myles Stute, BJ Mack, and Ta'Lon Cooper
South Carolina basketball seniors Myles Stute, BJ Mack, and Ta'Lon Cooper / Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina Basketball vs. Tennessee Volunteers:
Thumbs Up 1: Ta'Lon Cooper

Ta'Lon Cooper is quietly the most important player on the Gamecock basketball team. Cooper scored 18 points to lead USC on Tuesday, and he played some good defense, combining with Zach Davis and Myles Stute to force Dalton Kenecht to a sub-50% shooting percentage.

As he usually does, Cooper ran the offense well in this one, but he also operated well off the ball. Meechie Johnson was having success in the drive-and-kick game, and Cooper was the beneficiary of two of those passes with two huge corner 3-pointers. For the game, the veteran point guard knocked down 4-5 from outside, and he made both of his free throw attempts.

South Carolina Basketball vs. Tennessee Volunteers:
Thumbs Up 2: The Return of Myles Stute

Myles Stute has been out for about two weeks after being injured against the Georgia Bulldogs because of a dirty play. He returned to action on Tuesday in a bench role (Zach Davis remained in the starting lineup), and the Vanderbilt transfer had one of his most impactful games of the year.

With just 4 shot attempts, Stute scored 13 points (3-3 from 3-point land, 4-4 from the free throw line), and his shots from the charity stripe were clutch makes down the stretch. Stute also chipped in some defensive help on Dalton Kinecht. He led a bench unit that outscored Tennessee's 22-8, and he finished the game with the starters, knocking down the game's final four free throws.

South Carolina Basketball vs. Tennessee Volunteers:
Thumbs Up 3: Team Defense

Tennessee had scored at least 60 points in every game this season and averaged 80 points per game coming into the matchup with the Gamecocks. Carolina held the Vols to just 59 points and 36.2%/23.8%/60% shooting.

Despite not blocking any shots, Collin Murray-Boyles and Josh Gray made life difficult at the rim for the Volunteers, and BJ Mack had his best defensive performance of the SEC season. On the perimeter, Ta'Lon Cooper and Meechie Johnson were really good, and wings Zach Davis and Myles Stute made Dalton Kinecht earn everything he got.

In the end, only two Vols (Kinecht and Santiago Vescovi) had offensive performances that could be described as anything other than "bad," and Lamont Paris' team was reason for that.