Stokes leads Tennessee past South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Jarnell Stokes had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Jordan McRae hit the go-ahead 3-pointer and Tennessee rallied to win its 12 straight game over South Carolina, 66-61, on Sunday.
Stokes had his ninth double-double of the season and seventh in Southeastern Conference play this season for the Volunteers (12-10, 4-6).
McRae came in as Tennessee's top scorer at 14 points a game, yet shot just 1 of 7 for seven points. His lone field goal, though, was a big one -- a 3-pointer from the right corner that put the Vols ahead for good, 58-57, with 3:17 remaining. Skylar McBee followed with a 3 and Trae Golden hit two foul shots as Tennessee opened a 63-58 lead the Gamecocks (12-11, 2-8) could not overcome.
Michael Carrera had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead South Carolina, which lost its fourth straight game.
Golden added 16 points for Tennessee.
This game was tight for all but the final three minutes, featuring 12 ties and 16 lead changes until McRae's 3 turned things Tennessee's way. Bruce Ellington missed a 3-pointer on South Carolina's next possession after the Vols moved in front, leading to McBee's second 3. Brian Richardson could not answer for the Gamecocks on a long-range basket and Tennessee took control.
Stokes finished 6 of 9 from the field and made eight of his 13 foul shots. He also added four blocks for the Vols.
Carrera had his fourth double-double this season and second in SEC play.
Both these teams were looking to end losing streaks. Tennessee had lost its past two games to Arkansas and Georgia while the Gamecocks had dropped their last three games -- all by sizeable margins -- since defeating Arkansas at home on Jan. 26.
Tennessee hadn't lost to South Carolina since falling 81-64 on Feb. 17, 2007, including five straight at the Colonial Life Arena.
The difference early on in this was Stokes, the league's second-leading rebounder coming in who did just about anything he wanted against South Carolina's less experienced front line.
Tennessee's 6-foot-8 sophomore made 5 of 8 shots in the opening half. His putback with 3:52 left in the period capped the Vols' 12-3 run and put them ahead 28-21.
South Carolina responded with an 8-2 charge, led by Eric Smith's jumper and 3-pointer. That's when Stokes broke free again with a pair of close-in shots to put Tennessee ahead 32-29 at the break.
Gamecocks freshman Carrera had nine points on 3-of-4 shooting to power South Carolina.
First-year coach Frank Martin juggled his lineup again trying to find some offensive punch on a team that has lost by 39 points to Florida, 11 points to Georgia and 22 points to Kentucky in its last three outings. Martin started Damien Leonard for the first time this season, but the sophomore made just one of his four shots in the first half.
Brenton Williams, one of three Gamecocks, averaging 10 points a game, did not play against the Vols.