Atlanta, GA-Tennessee’s defense is peaking for the postseason, just as coach Cuonzo Martin asked at the beginning of the season.
Jarnell Stokes scored 22 points, matching his season high, and Tennessee beat South Carolina 59-44 on Friday in the SEC tournament quarterfinals, adding a strong defensive effort to the Vols’ NCAA tournament hopes.
The Vols (21-11) will carry a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s semifinal against No. 1 Florida.
“We didn’t come to Atlanta to win one game,” Martin said. “We came to win the tournament. I told my guys if you’re not coming to win the tournament, don’t get on the bus.”
Tennessee has not trailed in the winning streak and kept its lead over the Gamecocks in double digits for most of the game.
Martin said the Vols have played defense in the winning streak “the way we wanted to, the way we talked about at the beginning of the season.”