South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks fall to Tennessee despite late-game comeback

South Carolina basketball couldn't quite come back to beat the Tennessee Volunteers, falling 66-59 to move to 24-6 on the season.
South Carolina forward BJ Mack trying to defend Tennessee's Jonas Aidoo
South Carolina forward BJ Mack trying to defend Tennessee's Jonas Aidoo / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball fans were hanging from the rafters on Wednesday night as their Gamecocks were playing in a game against the Tennessee Volunteers with 1st place in the SEC on the line. Colonial Life Arena was sold out, sdfsdfsdf

The game started with a Jonas Aidoo tip win and Dalton Knecht layup, but Meechie Johnson answered with a layup to tie the score. Aidoo went on a personal 4-0 run, and then BJ Mack and Dalton Knecht traded 3-point jumpers.

After the two teams combined to take 8 3-pointers in the first 4:39 of the game, Tennessee led 9-5. After the media timeout, Collin Murray-Boyles got a 2nd chance dunk before BJ Mack gave up his third bucket, this one to Tobe Awaka.

Ta'Lon Cooper canned a near 30-footer, but Tennessee 4 quick points to extend their lead to 15-10 in the early goings. USC shot 9 3-pointers in the first 8 minutes of the game and made just 2 of them. Right on cue, Zach Davis (who had already missed 3 outside shots) nailed one on the next possession to cut their deficit to 2. Davis locked up Knecht on the other end, got the rebound, and then fed Meechie Johnson who tied the score 15-15.

Jonas Aidoo hit his third and fourth jumpers of the game to put UT up 19-15. A few traded buckets later, and the game was 22-19 in favor of Tennessee heading into the next media timeout. Some ugly (and very physical) basketball followed, and South Carolina native Josiah Jordan-James put the Vols up by 5 with a 2-2 trip to the free throw line.

Meechie Johnson and Jordan Gainey traded turnovers before Myles Stute and Dalton Knecht traded 3-balls. The two teams threw up brick after brick over the next couple of minutes, and after a timeout, an egregious kicked ball call went against Josh Gray. Naturally, after the bad call, Dalton Knecht knocked down an open look. On the next possession, Carolina lost him on a switch, and he made another. 33-22 Tennessee was the score after the 9-0 run.

Myles Stute was called for his third foul on a moving screen, but Meechie Johnson was able to get another bucket before the half ended. However, just before the final buzzer, Zakai Zeigler got away with a hard push off of Ta'Lon Cooper and hit a midrange jump shot to make the score 35-24.

To start the half, BJ Mack took two ill-advised shots (missed them both), but Collin Murray-Boyles bailed him out with two blocks on Jonas Aidoo on defense. Mack missed a third shot before Dalton Knecht and Meechie Johnson traded scores.

Sloppy basketball from both sides resulted in back-to-back turnovers, including a failed post up from Mack on small guard Santiago Vescovi. The Gamecocks made a short run behind a Myles Stute 3-pointer and a Josh Gray 1-2 foul line adventure.

Then, after some horrendous officiating in which someone (either team) should have been called for a foul, the Gamecocks were the beneficiaries of a suddenly loose basketball. Myles Stute ended up with it, and Collin Murray-Boyles scored to make the score 40-34.

Tennessee went nearly 4 minutes without a point before Zakai Zeigler got to the free throw line and knocked down a pair. Dalton Knecht got fouled on a 3-pointer off of another baseline out of bounds play. He knocked down the shot and the freebie, and all of a sudden, Tennessee was up by 12 again. Poor defense from BJ Mack allowed an easy lob in the pick and roll to Jonas Aidoo, and UT had their biggest lead of the game 48-34.

A quick run from the South Carolina backcourt was basically erased by a Zakai Zeigler 3-pointer. After a timeout, Collin Murray-Boyles got a dunk on a baseline inbound and then stole the basketball on the other end of the floor. Meechie Johnson drew back-to-back fouls on Santiago Vescovi, but both were on the floor, resulting in no free throws.

After a short stint on the bench to catch his breath, Ta'Lon Cooper hit a corner 3, but BJ Mack fouled Zakai Zeigler 30 feet from the basket to give two points right back to the Volunteers. On the next possession, Vescovi fouled Jacobi Wright about four times before finally getting a whistle, but #1 made just 1 from the stripe. With 4 minutes left, the scoreboard read 55-45 in favor of the visitors.

An overworked Meechie Johnson missed a 3-pointer on the next possession but made a layup after a tipped-out rebound. Mack lost Aidoo for a bucket, and then Mack hit a shot to make the score 57-50 with 2:34 on the clock.

The Vols killed the clock for 30 seconds, and Knecht hit a tough jumper, but Ta'Lon Cooper made a quick 3-pointer to answer. With 1:56 left, Lamont Paris' team was down 6. Carolina forced a stop, and Collin Murray-Boyles logged his second straight double-double with the rebound. A 1-2 trip to the line for CMB ended up as a good thing as Ta'Lon Cooper pulled down the offensive rebound. Meechie Johnson made a driving layup to cut the lead to just 3 points.

A nice pick-and-roll from Tennessee netted just one point for the Vols as Jonas Aidoo went 1-2 from the charity stripe. Meechie Johnson was mugged on a drive, but with no foul call, the ball ended up in Tennessee's possession. Aidoo missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation on the ensuing foul. Ta'Lon Cooper got fouled on a 3-point attempt, but the officials let them play on through the contact.

Santiago Vescovi all but iced the game with 2 foul shots, and the Tennessee Volunteers won a game and the SEC championship.

533. Final. 66. 534. South Carolina Basketball vs. Tennessee Volunteers. 59