Tennessee ekes out 56-55 victory over South Carolina
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- John Fulkerson had 15 points and 10 rebounds and drew a game-clinching charge with 1.4 seconds left as Tennessee edged South Carolina 56-55 on Saturday.
South Carolina (8-7, 0-2 SEC) had the ball in the closing seconds with a chance to take the lead, but AJ Lawson drove into Fulkerson in the lane and was called for the offensive foul. Tennessee (10-5, 2-1) threw a long pass that Jordan Bowden caught while staying inbounds to run out the clock.
Lawson, who entered the day with a team-leading 15.2 points per game, had just four points Saturday and missed all seven of his field-goal attempts.
Santiago Vescovi had 13 points and Josiah-Jordan James had 10 for Tennessee. South Carolina's Maik Kotsar had 17 and Jermaine Couisnard had 15.
Tennessee led 56-53 and had possession in the final minute, but Lawson stole the ball from Vescovi and hit a pair of free throws with 36.5 seconds left to cut the lead to 56-55.
Bowden missed a 3-pointer on the Vols' next possession, but the ball went out of bounds off South Carolina with 10.4 seconds left. Tennessee then missed a desperation attempt as the shot clock expired, giving South Carolina one last chance that ended with the Lawson charge.
The narrow victory ended Tennessee's recent road woes.
Tennessee entered Saturday having lost three of its last four games at Thompson-Boling Arena, a stretch that followed a 31-game home winning streak.
The Vols owned the nation's longest active Division I home winning streak before losing 51-47 to No. 13 Memphis. Tennessee beat Jacksonville State in its next home game but followed that with home losses to Wisconsin and LSU.
Tennessee regained its homecourt edge Saturday despite shooting just 25.9% (14 of 54) from the floor and 19.4% (6 of 31) from 3-point range. South Carolina shot just 32.8% (20 of 61) overall and 15.4% (2 of 13) from beyond the arc.
The difference came at the foul line.
Tennessee shot 22 of 28 on free-throw attempts, including 14 of 16 in the second half. South Carolina went 7 of 15 in the second half and 13 of 22 for the game.
It was apparent pretty early that points would be at a premium. Each team had more turnovers than baskets in the first half.
Tennessee took a 7-0 lead in the first 90 seconds of the game and then went nearly 10 1/2 minutes before making its next basket. Tennessee later erased an eight-point, second-half deficit by going on a 14-2 run as South Carolina went over six minutes without a basket.
> The Gamecocks didn't make a field goal the final 2:31 and shot just 31.4 percent (11-for-35) from the field in the second half.
> Tennessee had a tough shooting day as well (25.9 percent, 14-of-54 FG), but made up for it at the free throw line. The Vols shot 78.6 percent (22-of-28) at the foul line, including 87.5 percent (14-of-16) in the second half.
> Senior forward Maik Kotsar continued his solid play, finishing with a game-high 17 points (7-for-11 FGs). He also added eight rebounds. Kotsar has now scored in double figures in 10 of the team's last 12 games.
> After missing the team's SEC opener vs. Florida with a back strain earlier this week, redshirt freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard returned today to lead the bench with 15 points. It's the fifth time he's scored in double figures this season (first since scoring 16 at UMASS on Dec. 4).
> Redshirt sophomore wing Justin Minaya pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, marking his second career game with 10 or more boards. He had a career-high 11 rebounds in the team's season-opener vs. North Alabama (Nov. 6).
The Gamecocks return to Columbia to host No. 14/13 Kentucky at Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday. Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Jon Sundvold (analyst) will have the call for the SEC Network broadcast, which tips at 6:30 PM ET.