No. 5 Vols fall to South Carolina on late 3-pointer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ta’Lon Cooper hit a critical 3-pointer with 40 seconds left and scored 18 points, and B.J. Mack added 16 points to lead South Carolina to a 63-59 victory over No. 5 Tennessee on Tuesday night.

Myles Stute scored 13 points for the Gamecocks (18-3, 6-2 Southeastern Conference), who have beaten the conference’s two highest-ranked teams. They knocked off No. 10 Kentucky on Jan. 23.

“[The players] have a lot of respect,” Gamecocks coach Lamont Paris said. “They have a lot of believers. They’re a confident group.”

The victory was South Carolina’s first road win over a top-5 team since 1997. It was also only the second time in 46 tries this season an unranked team has beaten a top-5 opponent on the road, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The only other team to do so was James Madison, which beat No. 4 Michigan State on opening night.

“Our group just battled,” Paris said. “We really had success breaking down some action plans: Block out and rebound; take care of the ball.”

Dalton Knecht scored 12 points in the final three minutes and finished with 31 points, and Santiago Vescovi added 10 points for the Volunteers (15-5, 5-2), who had won four straight games and 11 of their past 12 entering the game.

Tennessee had its lowest point total of the season.

“[South Carolina] scored 63,” Vols coach Rick Barnes said. “Our goal is to keep our opponent under 69. We were not a very good offensive team.”

Barnes lamented his team missing 10 layups and going 12 of 20 from the line.

“You can’t miss 10 point-blank layups,” Barnes said, “and shoot like we did from the free throw line and win.”

South Carolina led by three points with 30 seconds left when Stute hit two free throws. Knecht hit a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining that cut the Tennessee deficit to two points. Stute hit two more free throws with four seconds left to seal the win.

“[Stute] respected the moment,” Paris said. “He made the shots.”

Tennessee shot 36% (21 for 58) from the field and 24% (5 for 21) from 3-point distance. South Carolina hit 10 of 29 (35%) 3-pointers, which was better than their 34% (19 for 56) shooting from the field.

South Carolina handled Tennessee’s aggressive defense in the first half and led 30-26 at the break.

Cooper had 10 points and Mack nine for the Gamecocks in the first half. Knecht had 13 points to pace Tennessee, which shot 2 for 11 (18%) from long distance.

The Gamecocks had a 21-19 rebounding edge and limited Tennessee to 36% (12 for 33) shooting to build its lead in the first half.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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