The Volunteers (19-10, 10-5) won their third straight. While the Gamecocks can still earn a piece of the division crown with a win over Georgia and a Vols loss to Alabama this weekend, Tennessee’s sweep of South Carolina this year earned it the No. 1 spot.
The Gamecocks (20-8, 9-6) hadn’t lost a league game at home this season. However, they couldn’t match Tennessee’s inside power. The Volunteers held a 44-22 rebounding margin.
Devan Downey and Zam Fredrick had 16 points each to lead the Gamecocks, who were blown out for a second straight game after 96-83 defeat at Vanderbilt that wasn’t that close.
Fredrick’s fourth and final 3-pointer tied the game at 46-all with 18:42 left. Then the Vols’ speed, strength and athleticism took control with a 27-10 run the next 12 minutes.
Prince had eight of his season-high performance during the streak, many as he drove past Gamecocks defenders to the hoop. By the time freshman Scotty Hopson finished a three-point play, Tennessee led 73-56 and celebrating its third division title in coach Bruce Pearl’s four seasons.
Smith had six rebounds and Prince nine. Wayne Chism added 15 points and eight rebounds.
There was much on the line, and both teams played like it right away.
With less than 5 minutes gone, Tennessee led 16-15 with the teams combining to go 12 of 15 from the field. Fredrick, one of the Gamecocks’ two departing seniors honored before the game, opened with three 3-pointers in the stretch as the teams looked ready to break all sorts of scoring marks.
While the shot-making slackened, the pace and intensity did not.
The Vols led by as many as seven points in the opening half, but South Carolina reeled them back each time.
Smith had 13 points to lead Tennessee the first 20 minutes.
Downey closed the half with a short jumper as the Vols led 44-40 at the break.