You couldn’t blame Gamecocks fans for sweating it out a bit when Tennessee cut a 30-13 South Carolina lead with 7:10 left in the first half to a 38-34 game with two minutes gone by in the second half. But there would be no comeback in the cards for the Volunteers as South Carolina blew it open with a 41-point second half en route to a 82-55 rout at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday afternoon. The win improves them to 21-8 and moves them to third place in the SEC - for now - at 11-5. Arkansas plays at Texas A&M tonight at 8:30 pm ET; a loss would put them a full game back of Carolina with two games left.
While this wasn’t the cleanest game (teams combined for 38 turnovers), the Gamecocks made the most of the Tennessee miscues with a 27-18 edge in points off TOs. They were +9 on the boards (38-29) and were buoyed by nine made threes (six in the second half). The Carolina defense held the Vols to 33% shooting and just six second-half field goals as they ended any attempt by the visitors to climb back in and deal the Gamecocks their fourth straight loss and fifth in the last six games.
Frank Martin started Hassani Gravett over Maik Kotsar as he opted for a smaller lineup this afternoon. While Gravett was only good for four points, the Gamecocks got contributions from several other players this afternoon. PJ Dozier led all scorers with 19 points on 7-15 shooting, while Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell combined for 15 each. Notice’s fifteen points all came from beyond the arc (including back-to-back makes that really turned the game in Carolina’s favor early on in the 2nd half). Rakym Felder saw 21 minutes off the bench and dropped in 12 as he enjoyed a solid effort.
The 55 points were the least by a Gamecocks opponent since January 18, when they held Florida to 53 on the way to a 57-53 victory at home. If Carolina can put together efforts like this in the final two games and in the SEC Tournament (and beyond), they’ll be tough to beat.
Mississippi State visits Columbia on Tuesday night as Thornwell, Notice, and Justin McKie step on the Colonial Life Arena court for the final time. Tipoff for that one is set for 7pm on ESPNU.