Vols hold on ... barely

Brandon Crump saved Tennessee's bacon Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

  A monumental collapse by the Vols enabled South Carolina to trim a 26-point deficit to three in the final minute, but Crump hit four free throws in the final 40 seconds to seal an 80-72 victory.  

Chris Lofton drained a career-high seven 3-point baskets for a career-high 25 points to pace Tennessee. He was 8 of 14 from the floor, including 7 of 13 from beyond the arc. Crump hit eight of 11 from the floor and added 22 points with 10 rebounds as the Vols moved to 12-14 overall and 5-8 in SEC play.   

The loss dropped Carolina to 14-10 overall and 6-7 in SEC play, probably costing the Gamecocks a bid to the NCAA Tournament.   

Carolina scored the game's first two points, then watched as Tennessee went on an 18-0 run to take an 18-2 lead. The Gamecocks launched several mild rallies but the Vols gradually widened the gap to 26 points (51-25).   

Carolina found its shooting stroke in the second half and whittled the gap to 11 (64-53) with around 10 minutes left. Lofton appeared to save the day at this point, hitting three 3-pointers in an 11-7 rally that built the lead to 75-60 with about 6:00 to go.   

At this point, Tennessee seemed intent on giving the game away, enabling the Cocks to make a 12-0 run. The Vols committed several costly turnovers that led to easy Carolina baskets. One mishap set up a driving layup by Rocky Trice that narrowed the gap to 75-68 with around 2:30 remaining.   

When the Big Orange didn't turn the ball over, it missed free throws. Dane Bradshaw missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 2:10 to go, and Antoine Tisby scored for Carolina, trimming the deficit to 75-70. C.J. Watson missed a 1-and-1 with 1:13 left and Tisby scored again, whittling the gap to 75-72 with 59 seconds left.   

Watson missed yet another 1-and-1 seconds later, and Carolina had the ball with a chance to tie.The Vols got a stop, however, then Crump stopped the bleeding by sinking both ends of a two-shot foul with 36.2 seconds left. After a Carolina miss, Crump hit two more foul shots with 19.7 seconds to go, padding the lead to 79-72. 

  JaJuan Smith hit a free throw with 10.8 seconds left to secure the final margin.   

Tennessee visits Arkansas Saturday.    

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