KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Kevin Punter Jr. scored a career-high 36 points as Tennessee capitalized on sizzling 3-point shooting in the second half for a 78-69 victory over No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday.
Tennessee (10-9, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) made its first seven 3-point attempts of the second half, with Punter connecting on four. After going 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half, Tennessee was 9 of 12 in the second half.
Punter shot 6 of 11 from 3-point range and 14 of 15 from the free throw line. Devon Baulkman scored 12 points and Detrick Mostella added 10 as the Volunteers beat South Carolina for the 16th time in their last 17 meetings.
South Carolina (17-2, 4-2) ended a 15-game losing streak in this series last season by winning 60-49 at Knoxville.
Michael Carrera scored 22 points, Duane Notice had 14 and Chris Silva added 11 for South Carolina.
South Carolina was unable to complete a second straight road comeback. The Gamecocks had won 77-74 in overtime at Mississippi on Tuesday after trailing by 11 points with just over 4 minutes left in regulation.
Tennessee’s free throw shooting and South Carolina’s mistakes prevented the Gamecocks from coming all the way back this time.
The Vols shot 30 of 32 from the free throw line. South Carolina was within eight points in the final 2 minutes when Sindarius Thornwell of the Gamecocks missed two free throws and Chris Silva missed a dunk on consecutive possessions.
Thornwell, who entered the day averaging 12.1 points per game to tie for the team lead, scored his only two points in the final minute of the game.
Tennessee’s hot shooting in the second half marked a major change from the first 20 minutes
Both teams were nearly as cold as the sub-freezing temperatures in Knoxville for much of the day. The teams combined for 24 fouls, 19 turnovers and only 15 field goals in a first half that ended with Tennessee ahead 29-28.
After starting the day 4 of 6, South Carolina missed its next 12 shots as Tennessee took an eight-point lead. South Carolina got Tennessee’s lead down to one at halftime because the Volunteers also were continually misfiring.
Tennessee shot 7 of 22 in the first half while South Carolina went 8 of 24. Tennessee led at halftime despite having nine turnovers and only one assist.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks couldn’t outrebound a Tennessee team that didn’t start anybody over 6-foot-5. Each team ended up with 34 rebounds. The Gamecocks entered the day with a plus-9.7 rebound margin that led the SEC and ranked 14th among all Division I teams.
Tennessee: This marked the eighth time Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has faced South Carolina’s Frank Martin. They were Big 12 rivals when Barnes coached Texas and Martin was at West Virginia. Barnes improved his record against Martin to 4-4.
South Carolina: Hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday.
Tennessee: Is at Alabama on Tuesday.