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Gamecocks fall short in upset bid against No. 21 Tennessee, 70-63

South Carolina couldn’t complete the sweep against ranked competition this week.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks couldn’t go two-for-two in their matchups against Top 25 opponents this week, falling to 70-63 to the No. 21 Tennessee Volunteers in Columbia on Saturday.

This game played out much like the win over Kentucky, but the Gamecocks (12-7, 3-4 SEC) just couldn’t cash in on the same opportunities. Trailing 33-30 at halftime, South Carolina made a couple of strong second-half pushes to keep pace with the Volunteers (13-5, 4-3), tying the game twice in the final minutes. But the writing was on the wall when the Gamecocks missed a 3-pointer, another shot, a layup, and a put-back on a critical late-game possession.

South Carolina went 17 of 27 from the free-throw line, highlighted by Chris Silva’s uncharacteristically bad performance there (4 of 10, including a couple that would have tied the game late). Silva also struggled with the familiar foe of foul trouble, limited to six points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. While the Gamecocks outrebounded the Volunteers 31-25, they did a poor job of converting opportunities for second-chance points, and their inside game took a hit with the absence of Silva and Maik Kotsar (who fouled out with a couple minutes left to play).

Justin Minaya and Wes Myers were the top performers for South Carolina, scoring 16 points apiece, with Frank Booker adding 10.

This was obviously a disappointing loss to take for the Gamecocks, as they might have been a Top 25 candidate had they completed the sweep against ranked competition this week. It’s also frustrating because of just how the Gamecocks lost — the formula that worked to perfection against Kentucky came up short against Tennessee. But sometimes even your best player will have a bad game, and South Carolina is still keeping pace in the SEC after getting off to a rough start in conference play.

Up next: The Gamecocks travel to Florida on Wednesday.