Vols slide past South Carolina, win 56-55

A strong defensive effort and a drawn charge by John Fulkerson in the closing seconds propelled Tennessee to a 56-55 win over South Carolina Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

With Tennessee leading by one with six seconds remaining, South Carolina guard A.J. Lawson grabbed the rebound off a UT missed 3-pointer and raced the length of the court to attempt a go-ahead shot. As Lawson drove down the lane, Fulkerson stepped in front and drew a charge with 1.4 seconds remaining, giving the Vols possession and securing the win.

Fulkerson led the Vols in scoring with 15 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds, achieving the second double-double of his career and first of the season. Freshmen Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James also scored in double figures with 13 and 10, respectively.

Defensively, Tennessee (10-5, 2-1 SEC) held its opponent to less than 60 points for the seventh time this season and recorded a season-high 11 blocked shots.

Maik Kotsar had 17 points and Jermaine Couisnard had 15 to pace South Carolina (8-7, 0-2).

After coming out of halftime with a one-point lead, South Carolina opened the second half on a 13-6 run, as Tennessee converted on just two of its first nine attempts from the field.

With the Gamecocks holding their largest lead of the game at 39-31, the Vols came alive on the offensive end with a 20-5 run, capped by back-to-back threes from the freshman duo of Drew Pember and James. The run put Tennessee in front, 51-44, a lead it would not relinquish for the remainder of the game despite South Carolina threatening on multiple occasions.

Over the course of the run, Tennessee held South Carolina without a field goal for more than six minutes, as the Gamecocks missed 10 consecutive shots.

South Carolina took a 26-25 lead into halftime in a first half marred by scoring droughts and shooting struggles. The Vols shot just 7-for-27 (.259) from the field during the game’s opening period.

After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead during the game’s first minute and a half, Tennessee went more than 10 minutes of game time without making a field goal. As a result of Tennessee’s scoring drought, South Carolina seized a 16-10 lead that the Vols responded to with a 9-0 run to go back in front.

From there, the lead changed hands once more as the Gamecocks executed an 8-2 run over the course of the half’s final four and a half minutes to take the slight advantage into the break.