Freshman forward Michael Carrera led the Gamecocks in points and rebounds for the fourth straight game, but South Carolina (12-11, 2-8 SEC) fell to Tennessee (12-10, 4-6 SEC) 66-61 on Sunday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. Carrera logged 18 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
Junior guard Brian Richardson scored 17 and added five rebounds. Junior guards Eric Smith and Bruce Ellington scored nine and six, respectively, with Ellington dishing out five assists. South Carolina turned the ball over 13 times to Tennessee's 18. The Gamecocks converted the turnovers into 19 points.
Sophomore forward Jarnelle Stokes scored a game-high 20 points and tallied 10 rebounds to lead Tennessee. Junior guard Trae Golden scored 16 for the Volunteers with sophomore guard Josh Richardson adding seven with five rebounds and five assists. The Volunteers made more free throws than the Gamecocks attempted, going 27-of-37 from the line while South Carolina was 18-of-25.
Neither team was able to take command of the first half, with six ties and six lead changes in the first 12 minutes of the game. No lead was over two points in the stretch.
At the 8:05 mark, senior forward Lakeem Jackson hit a free throw to give the Gamecocks a 19-16 lead, the largest lead of the game at the time. Tennessee responded with a 12-2 run to stretch out a seven-point advantage at 28-21.
Out of a South Carolina timeout to stop the Volunteer surge, Smith scored five unanswered points of his own on a jumper and a 3 to pull back to within two at 28-26 with 3:04 remaining before the break.
Tennessee held onto the lead for the last 6:59 of the half and carried a 32-29 advantage into the locker room.
Carrera scored seven of the first nine Gamecock points and ended the half with nine. Richardson, Ellington and Smith scored five a piece before the break.
Out of the locker room, South Carolina closed the gap and took a 35-34 lead when Ellington found Carrera for an emphatic dunk.
With the Gamecocks still holding onto the lead at 39-38, Tennessee converted back-to-back three-point plays to grab a 44-29 advantage. Richardson responded for South Carolina by putting in a layup and drawing a foul. He could not get the free throw to go down, but Jackson wrangled the rebound and Richardson drove in the lane hitting another layup. The four-point possession drew the Gamecocks to within one at 44-43.
South Carolina regained the lead on two Smith free throws that made the score 45-44 with 11:15 on the clock.
At the final media timeout of the half, the teams were locked in the 12th tie of the game at 55-55. Sophomore guard Damien Leonard sank two free throws out of the timeout to put the Gamecocks up two, but Tennessee took control, setting off on a 10-1 run to take a 65-58 lead, the largest of the game.
Richardson hit a long-range 3 with 16 seconds on the clock to make the score 65-61, but the Gamecocks ran out of time, missing their last three shots. The Volunteers were 5-of-6 from the line down the stretch to secure the 66-61 win.
The Gamecocks play their second-straight home SEC game on Thurs., Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. South Carolina will face LSU with the game scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN2.