ATLANTA- The South Carolina men's basketball team concluded the season today with another last second loss, this time at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers.
South Carolina (13-18, 6-12) led by one with 20.8 seconds remaining in the contest as sophomore forward Dominique Archie put the Gamecocks up by one on a putback following a miss.
However, with the top-seeded Volunteers (29-3, 14-2) down by one, head coach Bruce Pearl turned to senior Chris Lofton, the all-time leading three-point shooter in the Southeastern Conference. Lofton responded with a game winning three from NBA range to put the Vols ahead by two with 11.4 seconds remaining.
"They put it in the hands of the best three-point shooter in league history," USC coach Dave Odom said. "He had a stone cold look at it."
South Carolina then received two opportunities to win the game, but sophomore point guard Devan Downey missed a deep three from way behind the arc, then an inbounds pass to Dominique Archie with 1.1 seconds left never left the Georgia native's hands.
"I wanted to go for the kill. I wanted to beat them," Downey said of his final shot attempt. "If I had to do it again, I'd take the same shot."
The game looked as if it would be yet another blowout loss at the hands of the Vols for USC, as the Gamecocks sputtered out of the gate by missing their first five shots, and seven out of eight overall, as UT led by double-digits early in the contest.
Carolina's first points, a dunk by Archie, didn't come until 3:40 seconds into the game.
Carolina crept back into the game, in large part due to the play of junior Zam Frederick, who hit back-to-back triples to pull the Gamecocks within seven at 21-14. A steal by Devan Downey would pull USC within five just moments later.
Downey had five steals for the game, which helped him break the SEC single season record with 103 on the season.
Later in the first, Carolina would go on a six to nothing "mini-run" to pull the scrappy team within two points at 28-26, which was highlighted by two difficult shots by Downey.
After a Lofton triple pushed the lead back to eight for the Vols, Fredrick nailed his fourth triple of the half to pull Carolina within five yet again.
Zam would continue his shooting streak as he hit two free throws for Carolina to give USC their first lead of the game at 40-39. However, a Wayne Chism basket moments later would give Tennessee the one point halftime advantage. For the half, Zam Fredrick collected 18 points.
Early in the second half, the amazing play of Downey would continue, as the Chester, SC native scored six straight points for USC to give him and his squad a 51-50 lead at the 15 minute mark.
Just two minutes later, the action began to get fast and furious as consecutive baskets by Brian Williams would tie the game at 55 apiece. Brandis Raley-Ross quickly returned the lead to USC's favor on an amazing air dunk.
The action continued to get hotter as a JaJuan Smith triple gave UT a one point edge, but then was relinquished on an in-your-face alley oop to Archie.
"We stood strong," USC guard Devan Downey said of his team's performance against the highly touted Vols. "There was 13 or 14 guys out there giving it everything they had."
Tennessee returned the favor seconds later on yet another Wayne Chism dunk. Chism led the Volunteers with 23 points in the contest.
However, the credit for the Tennessee victory should have gone to the unheralded play of Tyler Smith, who scored eleven consecutive points for the Vols to keep UT in front.
Odom said he would have been happier had the Gamecocks won, but couldn't be prouder of his team.
"We answered everything they threw at us," Odom said. "That was a great college basketball game."
South Carolina now officially will turn its direction to locating its next head coach, who is expected to be announced shortly after the conclusion of the NCAA Men's Final Four.
-Tennessee freshman center Brian Williams scored nine points for the Vols, the most he has scored vs. an SEC team this season.
-Dave Odom concluded his record with South Carolina at 128-103 in seven seasons with USC, and has a career record of 406-278.
-Tennessee scored exactly 89 points in consecutive games versus South Carolina, and led by one against the Gamecocks in the last two meetings as well.
-Mike Holmes finished the game with 15 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season.
-Dominique Archie made his 62nd consecutive start for USC, and has started every game as a Gamecock.
-South Carolina had four players score in double figures. That happened four times in SEC play this season, and ironically, the Gamecocks lost all four of those contests.
-Downey's record-breaking performance of steals in a single season put him ahead of Clint McDaniel of Arkansas, who accomplished the feat in the 1994-1995 season.
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