KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Grant Williams scored 22 points and made a big basket in the closing seconds Tuesday as No. 18 Tennessee edged South Carolina 70-67 to hand the Gamecocks their sixth consecutive loss.
Tennessee (19-6, 9-4 SEC) has won seven of its last eight and 10 of its last 12. The Volunteers got back on track three nights after losing 78-50 at Alabama for their most lopsided defeat of the season.
South Carolina (13-13, 4-9) continued its slide as the Gamecocks have spent the last three weeks falling out of NCAA Tournament contention one season after their first Final Four appearance.
The Gamecocks made this one interesting, though.
After trailing 68-59 with 2 ½ minutes left, South Carolina scored eight straight points and got to within one on Chris Booker’s driving basket with 36 seconds remaining.
Tennessee answered on its next possession as Williams made a move around Chris Silva and scored with 11 seconds left.
After calling a timeout with 8.6 seconds remaining, South Carolina worked toward a potential game-tying 3-pointer. But Justin Minaya’s attempt from beyond the arc fell short of the front rim as the buzzer sounded.
Booker scored 19 points to lead South Carolina, while Silva and Hassani Gravett added 12 points each. Jordan Bowden scored 14 and Admiral Schofield added 13 for Tennessee.
The game was physical from the start, as the two teams combined for more fouls (25) than baskets (21) in the first half. South Carolina’s Maik Kotsar and Felipe Haase already had picked up three fouls each by halftime.
South Carolina tied the game 40-all on an Evan Hinson jumper with 18:29 left, but Tennessee answered with six straight points. After South Carolina got back to within 48-45, Tennessee went on a 10-0 run. Lamonte’ Tuner capped that spurt with a 3-pointer that extended Tennessee’s lead to 58-45 with 11:05 remaining.
But the Gamecocks refused to go away and managed to stay in the game all the way up to the final shot.
South Carolina: Although the Gamecocks lost again, they deserve credit for staying close most of the way despite dealing with foul trouble. South Carolina had lost by an average margin of 21 points in the three games leading up to this one. The Gamecocks were much more competitive this time.
Tennessee: While the Vols did a nice job of recovering from their poor performance at Alabama, their inability to put away an inferior opponent at home offers some cause for concern. Tennessee seemed to have the game in hand before struggling in the final three minutes, though the Vols did respond by getting the ball to Williams when the lead had dropped to one and the game was on the line.