Following a blowout win at home against Arkansas, the Tennessee Volunteers (14-11, 6-6 SEC) traveled to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks (16-9, 8-4 SEC).
South Carolina entered the game as 13.8 point favorite against the Volunteers, according to oddsshark.com, despite losing to the Volunteers earlier this season.
Both South Carolina and Tennessee struggled to make shots early, and the two teams went back and forth during the first ten minutes of regulation. With 9:35 left in the first half, Jordan Bowden sank two free throws to give the Vols a 13-11 lead.
Tennessee kept the lead for the next several minutes of regulation until South Carolina was able to tie the game up 24-24 with 3:11 remaining in the first half. Both teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the half and South Carolina took a 30-27 lead with seven seconds left in the half. However, senior John Fulkerson was able to cut the Gamecocks lead to one with a buzzer beater to end the first half of regulation.
The Volunteers finished the first half shooting 40.9% from the field while South Carolina shot only 37.9%. However, South Carolina’s ability to grab offensive rebounds and execute on second chance points gave them a slight advantage during the first half of play.
South Carolina started off the second half with a quick three, giving the Gamecocks a 33-29 lead. John Fulkerson quickly responded with an and-one play, cutting the lead back down to one.
Following Fulkerson’s play, the Vols continued to increase their momentum and go on an 11-0 run to take a 40-36 lead. Tennessee would keep the lead for the next three minutes until South Carolina was able to tie up the game 44-44 with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Tennessee battled with the Gamecocks for the next several minutes until they were able to increase their lead 54-47 with 7:25 to go in the game. The Volunteers were unable to pull away and lost the lead when South Carolina guard A.J. Lawson hit a 3-pointer to take the lead 60-59 with 1:38 left.
John Fulkerson was able to follow up the South Carolina three with a lay up to give the lead back to the Vols. Following a Santiago Vescovi turnover, South Carolina big man Maik Kotsar drew a foul on the fast break and sank both free throws. It would now be Tennessee’s ball down 61-60 with 21 seconds remaining in the game.
Tennessee’s next possession would end on a charge called on John Fulkerson. The Vols then intentionally fouled Kotsar, sending him to the free throw line where he sank both of them. This gave South Carolina a 63-60 lead with seven seconds left in the game.
Before the Volunteers could attempt a game-tying three, freshman Josiah Jordan-James was fouled and sent to the line. Jordan-James made the first free throw and then intentionally missed the second, where he gathered his own rebound. He missed his following shot, ending the game 63-61.
“Tough loss. We had a lead and need to make one offensive play. We didn’t do that,” Coach Rick Barnes said when discussing the late-game turnovers and execution.
The Volunteers will have less than three days to fix their turnover issues before the in-state rival Vanderbilt Commodores come to town on Tuesday. Tip off on Feb. 18 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia
Featured image courtesy of Jim Dedmon of USA Today Sports