USC drops its fourth straight: Cooke's career-high night not enough for last-place Gamecocks

Malik Cooke

Tennessee 73, South Carolina 67

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Scotty Hopson scored 23 points as Tennessee survived sloppy play to beat South Carolina 73-67 on Wednesday night.

The victory ended a three-game losing skid for Tennessee (16-10, 6-5 Southeastern Conference) and extended the Volunteers' winning streak over the Gamecocks to eight straight.

Malik Cooke scored a career-high 22 points for the Gamecocks (13-11, 4-7), who lost their fourth straight and remain in last place in the SEC East. Former Berkeley High School standout Bruce Ellington added 15 points, and Ramon Galloway scored 10.

Kenny Hall tipped in a missed layup by Melvin Goins to give the Vols a 66-53 lead with 3:05 left. Hall then fouled Cooke at the other end as he hit a layup. Cooke hit the ensuing free throw and followed up a Tennessee turnover with a 3-pointer as part of an 8-0 run that left the Vols with a 66-61 lead with a minute remaining.

Tennessee didn't hit a field goal in the final 3:05 of the game but went 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in the last minute to seal the victory. The Vols, who entered the game ranked last in the SEC with their 14.8 attempted foul shots per game in league play, finished 21 of 35 from the charity stripe.

Cameron Tatum added 15 points for Tennessee, while Tobias Harris and Brian Williams each had 10.

South Carolina's last lead came midway through the first half, but even shooting 32.9 percent the Gamecocks never let Tennessee get too comfortable on its own floor. The Vols hit 44.2 percent of their shots but committed 16 turnovers, leading to 20 points for South Carolina.

Tennessee was leading 14-7 when a 3-pointer by former Fort Dorchester High School star R.J. Slawson launched an 8-0 run by South Carolina.

Galloway banked a shot with 8:03 left in the first half to take a 15-14 lead for the Gamecocks, but it was the last time they would lead.

Galloway fouled Hopson on the next possession, and Hopson hit both free throws. Galloway missed a jumper on the other end of the floor, and Hopson dunked, helping the Vols to settle down -- at least until halftime.

Tennessee, which leads the SEC in offensive rebounds, had a 30-17 advantage on the boards at the break but only eight second-chance points.

The Vols built a 12-point lead quickly, but it didn't last as the Gamecocks started scoring more in the paint. A layup by Galloway cut the margin to 44-42 with 12:41 left.

South Carolina wouldn't get any closer as a 3-pointer by Skylar McBee from the wing with 11:57 left gave Tennessee some life.