No. 20 Volunteers edge Gamecocks

Bobby Maze hopes he’s made an impact on Tennessee fans. A few more

performances like Saturday and he won’t have to wonder anymore.

Maze had 14 points and held Devan Downey, the Southeastern

Conference’s leading scorer, to his lowest output this season as

the No. 20 Vols rallied late to defeat South Carolina 63-55.

Maze, a senior, understands his time playing college ball is

running out.

“As the clock ticks down, I want people to remember me here,”

Maze said. “That I gave it my all on the floor and against the best

players, I rise to the occasion.”

He’s done that this season.

Maze had a season-high 16 points and played tight defense on

Kansas star Sharron Collins in Tennessee’s 76-68 victory over the

top-ranked Jayhawks on Jan. 10.

Maze checked Downey relentlessly, forcing him into a 4-of-18

shooting performance and 15 points, eight below his average.

“Bobby always gets up for the bigger games against the bigger

guards, well Downey’s little,” chuckled Tennessee forward Wayne

Chism, referring to the 5-foot-9 Gamecock star.

Chism finished with 11 points and J.P. Prince had 10 as the

Vols (20-6, 8-4) reached the 20-win mark for the fifth straight

season.

“That’s a big milestone,” Chism said. “Now, we’ve got to work

on number 21.”

With Maze in the backcourt, Tennessee has a chance to get

many more.

The Vols had been lethargic most of the game and trailed

46-43 after Downey’s two foul shots with 9:18 to go. That’s when

the Vols took control and Kenny Hall’s jam off a feed from Chism

put them ahead for good, 47-46.

By the time Prince stole the ball at halfcourt and went in

for layup 4 minutes later, Tennessee was up 56-49, and on the way

to its seventh consecutive victory over South Carolina (14-12,

5-7).

Brandis Raley-Ross had 16 points to lead the Gamecocks, who

have lost four of six since their upset of then-No. 1 Kentucky last

month.

Still, the Gamecocks hung around long enough that it appeared

a typical home showing by Downey — he hadn’t had fewer than 24

points in South Carolina’s previous five home SEC games — might

pull this one out, too.

But Tennessee tightened up its defense to blunt any

comebacks. The Vols held South Carolina to just 1-of-12 shooting

from behind the arc.

Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn says his team was in the thick of

it even after losing the lead.

“We just had a stretch where we did not score at all,” he

said.

For all of Tennessee’s success this season, the Vols have

struggled on the road in the SEC. Three of their four league losses

have come away from home, including the last two — Vanderbilt and

Kentucky.

South Carolina hasn’t been the easiest out at Colonial Life

Arena. The Gamecocks had won five of their past six here, including

the win over Kentucky on Jan. 26.

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said winning on the road was the

“great separator” in the SEC.

“This is one that the rest of the league won’t get,” he said.

For a long while, it looked like Tennessee would join those

others who have lost here.

Maybe it was the sunny, 60-degree weather outside, but the

Vols didn’t look ready for this one early.

Chism and Prince both had two fouls less than 11 minutes in,

and Tennessee had 11 first-half turnovers, nearly equaling its game

average of 12.8.

The Gamecocks used the long-range shooting of Raley-Ross to

offset Downey’s slow start. The SEC’s leading scorer was 1 of 8 as

the Volunteers ran two or three players at him to keep him out of

synch the first 20 minutes.

Raley-Ross hit consecutive 3-pointers and Ramon Galloway

added another as South Carolina moved ahead 22-18.

Tennessee made had two field goals over the final 7 minutes

of the half and trailed 28-24, the fourth straight game it was

behind at halftime.

To Pearl, that deficit was like a 10-point lead as bad as

Tennessee looked.

“I told our guys, ‘It’s not over at halftime,'” Pearl said.

“We just hung in there.”