Maik Kotsar made two free throws with 22.4 seconds left Saturday night to put South Carolina ahead for good in a 63-61 Southeastern Conference win over Tennessee at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
Kotsar added two more foul shots with 7.0 seconds remaining to give the Gamecocks (16-9, 8-4 SEC) a 63-60 edge, one the Volunteers (14-11, 6-6) nearly erased with a scenario similar to the one Duke used to beat North Carolina last Saturday night.
Freshman Josiah-Jordan James was fouled before he could try a game-tying 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left. James made the first and missed the second intentionally, lining it off the front of the rim and then hustling down the rebound. His fall-away 15-footer over Kotsar from the left baseline banged off the front iron just before time expired.
Kotsar scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds for South Carolina, which has won eight of its last 10 games to move into at-large consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Jermaine Couisnard added 12 points for South Carolina.
John Fulkerson starred in defeat for Tennessee with a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds. Yves Pons added 13 points for the Vols, which hit just 17 of 28 free throws and committed 20 turnovers that were converted into 22 points.
The teams put a hurting on the rims during the first 10 minutes. At the second TV timeout just over 8 1/2 minutes into the game, Tennessee led just 9-8. Missed shots, bricked free throws and occasional turnovers were the name of the game.
The Volunteers carved out their largest lead of the half on a free throw by Davonte Gaines with 5:40 left, making it 20-14 and capping a 9-3 run. South Carolina rallied and tied the score at 24 when Couisnard converted two foul shots at the 3:11 mark.
Fulkerson finished off a 14-point half by canning a jumper as time expired, bringing Tennessee within 30-29. The halftime score was originally 30-30, but game officials overturned a 3-pointer from the Vols' Jordan Bowden, making it a 2 instead.
--Field Level Media