Tennessee holds off South Carolina in 69-57 winTennessee coach Cuonzo Martin looks on as his team takes on South Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Brimer)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Skylar McBee scored a career-high 18 points to lead Tennessee to a 69-57 win against South Carolina on Wednesday night.
McBee, in his second career start, hit 4 of 7 from 3-point range and sank all six of his free throws.
His second trey of the game gave the Volunteers (12-12, 4-5 Southeastern Conference) the ultimate lead with 2:01 left in a first half that featured six ties and six lead changes. The basket launched an 8-0 run to close out the half, and Tennessee led 35-27 at the break.
Tennessee, which went 10 of 20 from behind the arc, hit seven straight 3-point attempts stretching from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second and took only 38 shots total. The Vols had entered the game limiting opponents to 60.6 points, the second-best scoring defense in the SEC.
Tennessee's defense broke down midway through the second half. The Vols led 51-36 with 12:40 left, but South Carolina went on an 8-0 run of its own.
The Gamecocks (9-14, 1-8) pulled within 58-55 on a three-point play by Bruce Ellington with 4:07 left, but it was as close as they would get. Ellington led South Carolina with 12 points.
Tennessee now has a 10-game winning streak over South Carolina, its longest active winning streak against any SEC opponent. The Gamecocks have also lost 10 straight in Knoxville.
Starting forward Jarnell Stokes sat the game out with a sore wrist after a physical practice earlier in the week. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin returned Kenny Hall to the starting five after he had come off the bench for nine games, and Hall grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
It was the fourth time Tennessee has changed its lineup this season, and each time the shuffle has paid off with a victory.
Trae Golden scored 14 points, and Jeronne Maymon added 12 points for the Vols, who outshot the Gamecocks 50 percent (19 of 38) to 33.9 percent (19 of 56).
Though South Carolina couldn't fully match Tennessee's size in the frontcourt, the Gamecocks managed to keep the Vols away from the basket by firmly planting their feet. The Vols were called for three charges in the first half alone and finished with just 12 points in the paint.
Tennessee outrebounded South Carolina 34-30 but turned the ball over 14 times, leading to 18 points for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina couldn't get any clean looks around its own basket and relied mostly on its guards, who kept the Gamecocks in control for much of the first half.
Cameron Tatum hit a pair of 3s in the game, the second marking his 1,000th career point. The redshirt senior is the 44th Tennessee player to reach the milestone.