USC Survives Last Shot, UT For Critical SEC Win

Knowing a loss would have put their season in dire straits, South Carolina rallied from a six-point deficit in the second half to edge Tennessee, 66-63, Saturday night at the Colonial Center. The victory gave USC a 10-5 overall record but more importantly, a 2-2 conference record heading into a key stretch that includes road games at Mississippi State and Forida. Carlos Powell led USC in scoring, as he usually does, with 20 points.

After Wednesday's uninspiring performance in the Bayou, the last thing South Carolina wanted, or needed, was a loss at home to the notoriously inconsistent Tennessee Volunteers.

Thanks to a fortunate bounce of the ball, USC got exactly what it asked for, a thrilling 66-63 victory over SEC East rival Tennessee Saturday night before 13,108 at the Colonial Center that kept the Gamecocks' NCAA Tournament hopes alive and well.

With upcoming road games at Mississippi State (next Saturday) and Florida (Jan. 29), USC unquestionably needed this victory desperately. The outcome in this back-and-forth affair was not decided until a potential game-tying 3-pointer by UT's Chris Lofton bounced around the rim before falling off as the buzzer sounded.

Carlos Powell led USC with 20 points, 14 in the first half, and six rebounds. He made 8-of—11 shots from the field. The only thing the senior from Florence didn't do well was shoot free throws, making only four of 10.

Powell even excelled defensively, taking two key charging fouls in the final fine minutes.

USC improved to 10-5, 2-2 in the SEC. Tennessee fell to 9-7, 2-2 in the SEC.

Josh Gonner came off the bench to score 16 points for USC, making 4-of-7 3-pointers. Tarence Kinsey had 12 points. Tre Kelley scored only two points, but those came on a pair of critical free throws with 20 seconds left.

USC shot 52.4% from the floor (22-for-42), the sixth straight game the Gamecocks have made at least one-half of its shots from the field. USC is 3-3 in those games.

After USC had taken a 32-30 halftime lead, Josh Gonner came out with guns blazing with a pair of three-pointers to give the Gamecocks a 38-36 edge with 17:13 left.

But a runner in the lane and an off-balance jumper by the Volunteers gave UT a 40-38 lead. After Tre Kelley missed a triple and UT's major Wingate missed a shot underneath, UT took a 40-38 lead into the first media timeout of the second half with 15:36 left.

Gonner hit another trey, his third of the half, to give USC a 43-42 lead. But two free throws by Wingate and a corner jumper gave UT four straight points and a three-point lead (46-43) with 12:33 left.

After Powell drained a jumper from the corner for his first basket of the second half to cut UT's advantage to one, the Volunteers went on a 7-2 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 53-47 with 10:38 left.

Tarence Kinsey stopped UT's surge with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Wingate scored underneath for UT to make it 55-50 with 9:37 left.

Kinsey was then fouled by UT's C.J. Watson while attempting a 3-pointer from the left wing. He made all three free throws to slice the deficit to one at 55-54, and firing up the near capacity crowd in the process.

After Powell missed the front end of a 1-and-1 coming out of the third media timeout of the second half, Wingate made one free throw to give UT a two-point lead at 56-54 with 6:41 left.

Balkman brought the house down with a thunderous alley-oop dunk off a feed from Gonner from the top to tie the game at 56-56. The crowd noise increased further when Wingate was called for an offensive foul on the other end. Powell took the charge.

Gonner gave USC its first lead since 43-42 with a pair of free throws. After UT was whistled for a loose ball foul, Powell made the second of two free throws for a 59-56 USC lead with 5:16 left.

But UT sandwiched a free throw by Powell with a jumper and 3-pointer to take a 61-60 lead with 4:06 left.

Coming out of a timeout, UT tried to trap on the perimeter and left Wallace alone at the foul line. He took the pass and roared down the lane for a thunderous dunk to give USC a 62-61 lead with 3:14 left.

Powell outmuscled Wingate near the basket for a hook shot and was fouled. However, he missed the free throw and USC had a 3-point lead at 64-61 with 1:56 left.

UT hit a reverse layup from the baseline to cut the deficit to one. Kinsey missed a 3-pointer but rebounded his miss and USC called a timeout with 38.7 seconds left holding a slim 64-63 lead.

USC struggled to set up for a shot but UT bailed out the Gamecocks by fouling Kelley as he threw up a runner in the lane. Kelley coolly made both free throws with 20 seconds left to give USC a 66-63 lead, and UT one final shot to tie the game and force overtime.

The Volunteers took the ball inbounds and called timeout with 16.8 seconds left.

The Volunteers struggled with USC's defensive pressure on the perimeter. Finally, with only a few seconds left, Lofton broke free and tried a 3-pointer from the top. The ball bounced around the rim for what seemed like a month before falling off harmlessly as the buzzer sounded, sending the delirious crowd into euphoria.

Powell got USC off to a good start on the offensive end by swishing a jumper from the corner. Powell drained another jumper a minute later to tie the game at 4-4.

After a UT 3-pointer, Tarence Kinsey hit a jumper to make the score 7-6 heading into the first media timeout of the contest with 15:09 left.

On USC's first possession after the timeout, Powell, with Major Wingate guarding him, hit a baby hook while being fouled. He made the free throw to give USC its first lead, 9-7.

Kinsey hit a jumper to extend USC's run to seven straight points, making it 11-7. But the Volunteers responded with an 8-0 run that featured a three-point play and a 3-pointer to take a 15-11 lead.

Powell ended UT's surge by making the second of two free throws with 12:09 left to cut the lead to 15-12, the score when the second media timeout was called with 11:43 left.

Powell hit a short jumper in the lane on USC's first possession after the timeout before UT scored off a tip drill on an offensive rebound to make it 17-14.

USC managed to tie the score at 17-17 when Brandon Wallace drained a 3-pointer with 9:42 left. But UT countered with a triple of its own.

Wallace brought the crowd to its feet when he slammed home a missed shot to cut UT's lead to 20-19 with 8:34 left.

Balkman stole the ball and went the distance for a layup to give USC a short-lived 21-20 lead. UT led, 22-21, when the third media timeout of the first half was whistled with 7:17 left.

The teams essentially traded baskets for the next four minutes until the fourth and final media timeout was called with 3:15 left.

Powell hit two jumpers and Balkman fed Kinsey for a pretty backdoor layup for USC during that stretch. UT led, 28-27, when the teams headed to the benches.

Josh Gonner nailed a 3-pointer, his first of four for the game, from the wing to give USC its biggest lead of the half, 30-28, with 2:35 left. But the Volunteers quickly tied the score with a pair of free throws.

Gonner made two of four free throws on a couple of trips to the line to give USC a 32-30 lead with 37 seconds left. USC had an opportunity to expand its lead but a transition pass went awry in the final moments.

UTN: 30-33=63

USC: 32-34=66

USC Leading Scorer: Carlos Powell, 20 points.

UTN Leading Scorer: Scooter McFadgon, 17 points.

USC Leading Rebounder: Powell, 6.

UGA Leading Rebounder: Brandon Crump, 5.

Halftime: USC 66-63.

Next Game: Sat. 1/22 at Mississippi St. (6:00 p.m.) Next Home Game: Wed. 1/26 v. Vanderbilt (8:00 p.m.)

NOTES: USC's starting lineup – F Carlos Powell, F Antoine Tisby, F Tarence Kinsey, G Tre Kelley, G Rocky Trice. . .USC made 16 of 27 free throws. . .USC came into Saturday's game as one of the hottest shooting team in the SEC. . .This was the 8th game this season decided by four points or less. . .USC now trails the all-time series against Tennessee, 22-21. . .USC is 13-6 in Columbia against the Volunteers. . .USC is now 56-11 when its leads at the half and 46-14 at home under Dave Odom. . .Saturday's game was televised by Fox Sports South, with Dave Neal (play-by-play) and Barry Booker (color) handling the commentary. The next three USC games will also be televised. . .Carlos Powell led USC in both scoring (15.0 PPG) and rebounds (6.3 rpg) heading into Saturday's game. Tre Kelley is the only other USC player averaging in double figures (10.6 PPG). . .USC easily won last season's game against UT in Columbia, 85-64. . . Beginning with Saturday's game, Tennessee plays five of its next six games on the road. . Buzz Peterson is in his fourth season as UT head coach. His overall record is now 56-49. . .UT edged Mississippi St. in Knoxville, 64-63, on Wednesday. In their previous home game, the Volunteers were thumped by in-state rival Vanderbilt, 88-63.


USC HEAD COACH DAVE ODOM: "I certainly want to congratulate our team. That was a victory well earned. We beat a very fine basketball team in Tennessee. That was by far the best they've played in this building. Buzz (Peterson) had them prepared well. They executed well. That makes the win even more enjoyable. We struggled some early trying to find out what would work defensively. We had a hard time securing a defensive rebound. Their backside offensive rebounding was very, very effective."

"I thought the guys who came off the bench after the first wave of substitutions, the Gonners, the Balkmans, and the Wallaces, certainly turned the tide back in our favor. We almost let this thing slip out of our fingers in the second half. The thing that really turned it around were two excellent defensive plays by Carlos Powell drawing charges. Those two plays should not go unnoticed or uncomplimented. We were able to stay in it.

"They changed defenses quite a bit which was a smart move on their part. It came us out of rhythm a little bit. But we hit enough shots to win it."

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