Vols headed to SEC Championship Semi-Finals after defeating South Carolina

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Game 5 - [E1] Tennessee 89, [E5] South Carolina 87

ATLANTA (AP) -- Tennessee is still alive for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It sure wasn't easy.

Chris Lofton hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds remaining and the fourth-ranked Volunteers survived South Carolina's bid for a huge upset, sending Dave Odom into retirement with an 89-87 victory over the Gamecocks in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday.

Tennessee (29-3) already claimed its first SEC championship in 41 years and hopes to lock up a top seed by winning the league tournament. South Carolina (14-18) made it tough in Odom's final game; he announced in January he would step down at the end of the season.

Wayne Chism led the Volunteers with 23 points, helping them dominate on the inside. Lofton was held to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, but the senior guard came through when it counted.

After Dominique Archie scored off a brilliant pass from Devan Downey, putting South Carolina ahead 87-86 with 21 seconds remaining, Tennessee hustled the ball upcourt and called timeout to set up a play. While the Volunteers had been doing most of their damage in the lane, they set up a screen for Lofton at the top of the key.

His open look hit nothing but net, just his second 3-pointer in 10 attempts on the day.

Downey came up short on a 3-pointer that could have won it for South Carolina, but the Gamecocks got a final chance when the rebound went out of bounds off a Tennessee player with 1.1 seconds left. Evaldas Baniulis inbounded to Archie, but the pass was low and got stuck between his legs while he was being tightly guarded by Tyler Smith.

The horn sounded without Archie even getting off a shot.

The 65-year-old Odom, who coached at South Carolina for seven years after a successful 12-year stint at Wake Forest, walked off the court slowly with his head down. He finished with a disappointing record of 128-104 with the Gamecocks, taking the school to only one NCAA tournament.

Downey scored 26 points and Zam Fredrick had 24 for the Gamecocks, who certainly can't be accused of giving up as they were after a humiliating 89-56 loss to Tennessee in their regular-season finale last weekend. South Carolina knocked off LSU in the opening round and came within a shot of upsetting the powerful Vols.

But Tennessee moves on to face the winner of the Vanderbilt-Arkansas game in Saturday's semifinals.

Game/Tournament Notes--

This exciting, back-and-forth game featured four lead changes in the last minute of the game.
Dominique Archie dunked with 51 seconds remaining to put South Carolina ahead 85-84.
Tyler Smith replied with a layup to put Tennessee ahead 86-85.
Archie got a layup with 20 seconds remaining to give SC an 87-86 advantage.
Chris Lofton nailed the game-winner with a long three-pointer with 11 seconds to go.
Devan Downey missed a three-pointer with two seconds left to preserve the victory for Tennessee.
Today's game produced an interesting matchup, with the SEC team that has forced the most turnovers per game this season - Tennessee, 18.7 per game - against the league's team with the fewest turnovers, South Carolina, which surrendered just 10.6 miscues per game. USC stayed true to its trend by committing only eight turnovers.
Tennessee advances to the tournament semifinals on Saturday, March 15, at 1 p.m. and will play the winner of the Vanderbilt-Arkansas game.

Tennessee Notes:

Tennessee is 29-3 overall and has won four in a row.
Tennessee is 55-43 all-time in the SEC Tournament. The Volunteers reach the tournament semifinals for the first time since the 1991 SEC Tournament. Today's win broke a string of 11 consecutive losses in the tourney quarterfinals since '91.
Tennessee now leads the series vs. South Carolina, 29-23. Tennessee won all three meetings this season.
Tennessee shoots a sizzling 56.5 percent from the field. It's the eighth time this season that the Volunteers have made at least half their shots and the UT is 8-0 in those games.
Tennessee outrebounded South Carolina 38-32 and has outrebounded 12 of their last 14 opponents.
Tennessee used its size advantage in the post to dominate points in the paint, 52-38.
Wayne Chism powered in a career-high 23 points and a career-best five blocked shots. He also claimed seven rebounds, tying Tyler Smith for the team lead in that category.
Four Volunteers landed in double-figure scoring, with JaJuan Smith scoring 19, Tyler Smith 13, and Chris Lofton 10 in addition to Chism.
Freshman center Brian Williams added nine points, the most he has scored vs. an SEC team this season.
This year's SEC Legend for Tennessee is Bernard King.

South Carolina Notes:

South Carolina is 14-18 overall.
South Carolina now has an all-time record of 16-17 in the SEC Tournament.
Coach Dave Odom, who has announced his retirement from South Carolina, has a career record of 406-278 in 22 seasons, including 128-103 in seven years at USC.
South Carolina's starting guard combination had an excellent game, combining for 50 points. Devan Downey totaled 26 points, his 15th 20-point game of the season. Zam Fredrick tallied 24 points, his eighth 20-point game of the season.
South Carolina had four players score in double figures. That happened four times in SEC play this season, and ironically, the Gamecocks lost all four of those contests.
Devan Downey had five steals today, giving him 103 for the season, and breaking the SEC record of 102 by Clint McDaniel of Arkansas in 1994-95.
Freshman forward Mike Holmes had 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season.
Sophomore Dominique Archie made his 62nd consecutive start, every game over the last two seasons.

Story Courtesy: AP Wire Reports & The SEC


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