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South Carolina suffers heartbreaker in 56-55 loss to Tennessee

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Can we say “ouch”?

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks continued their rough start to 2020, following up an SEC-opening loss to Florida with a brutal 56-55 defeat at Tennessee on Saturday afternoon.

As the score implies, this was not the game to watch if you wanted competent offense — neither team could buy a bucket, with South Carolina shooting 33% from the field and the Vols posting an even more frigid 26% performance. Where Tennessee found an edge, however, was in an area the Gamecocks have been absolutely miserable in this year: the foul line.

Indeed, the game-winning play for the Volunteers was not a buzzer-beater or a clutch steal, but drawing a charge on A.J. Lawson — who had previously made a clutch steal of his own to move the Gamecocks within a point. Tennessee missed a desperation 3 to avoid a shot-clock violation, and when Lawson surged into the lane to try winning it for USC, John Fulkerson was there to get the whistle.

The Vols made 22 of their 28 free throws, while the Gamecocks hit just 13 of 22 and also continued their struggles from behind their arc, finishing 2-of-13 from 3.

Maik Kostar stood out again for South Carolina in what’s been a really good stretch of basketball for him, posting 17 points and eight rebounds, while Jermaine Couisnard was the only other Gamecock in double figures with 15 points. Lawson, despite that late steal, is still mired in his offensive slump, putting up just four points. Jair Bolden had a tough outing as well, going 0 for 5 from the field after coming in averaging 9.6 points.

South Carolina (8-7, 0-2 SEC) hosts No. 14 Kentucky on Wednesday.