South Carolina evened the season series with Tennessee on Wednesday night as they defeated the Vols, 84-58, inside Colonial Life Arena.
The Gamecocks got out to a fast start in their tenth SEC win of the season, outscoring UT 11-2 in the early going. USC followed their quick open with a string of sloppy possessions, allowing the Vols to come within five of their first half lead. Tennessee made nine of their first 13 attempts from the field but followed it with a 4-of-20 stretch. During a brief period, UT missed five consecutive shots as South Carolina made 5-of-6 on the other end. The Gamecocks held a 37-29 about midway through the half.
Despite Tennessee's cold streak at times, they were having success in one division of their offense - three-point shooting. Perimeter defense has been an issue for this USC team for much of the season, and in the first half, the flaw showed itself once again. UT hit five of their first 10 three-point attempts, casually hanging with the Gamecocks for most of the first half.
Duane Notice knocked down three consecutive treys, scoring the last nine South Carolina points of the first half. His spark gave USC a double-digit lead for the first time on the night and pushed them to a 15-point lead as the teams entered halftime. The Gamecocks scored 49 points in the first half, the most they've scored in the first half of an SEC game this season.
Michael Carrera carried South Carolina out of the break, making both of his attempts from the field in the opening minutes of the second half. He helped USC open with an 8-0 run out of the locker room. With a successful offense and a smothering defense, the Gamecocks built a lead that ballooned to 25 early on in the second half.
USC looked in complete control but the Vols made one last rally. They trimmed South Carolina's lead from 25 to 13 in a matter of minutes. The momentum wasn't swinging, I don't think anyone was truly nervous, but Tennessee did manage to go on quite the run.
Two seniors broke the Gamecocks of their funk and put the game away for good. Carrera and Mindaugas Kacinas hit back-to-back threes as USC went on a 14-0 second half run. It pushed the Gamecocks to shoot 52 percent from the field, guiding them to a solid victory.
Notice led the team with 17 points as Carrera tallied his 10th double-double of the season, contributing 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Gamecocks and Texas A&M now have identical 10-6 records in SEC play but since USC owns the tiebreaker, South Carolina is in second place in the conference standings.
Frank Martin's club earned their 23rd win on the year Wednesday, the most since the 2005-06 season, when that team won 23 games total.
The loss now puts the Vols at 1-10 on the year in true road games. The Gamecocks too struggle on the road and that is where they are headed next. South Carolina travels to Mississippi State this weekend for a Saturday tip.