GAME NOTES: The 13th-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks will try to continue their improbable run through the SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon, as they take on the fourth-seeded Tennessee Volunteers in the quarterfinals at the Georgia Dome.
The winner advances to Saturday's semifinals to take on either Florida on Missouri.
The Vols made easy work of the Gamecocks in Knoxville back on Feb. 8, 72-53, as their lead in the all-time series extended to 39-23.
South Carolina finished its league season just 4-13 but has surprised early on in this event by defeating Auburn in the first round (74-56) before upsetting No. 5 seed Arkansas in the second round on Thursday, 71-69, giving it wins in four of five to improve to 14-19 on the season. After a back-and-forth second half with the Razorbacks in the second round, the Gamecocks went ahead for good with a Brenton Williams free throw in the final minute. They shot a mere 38.3 percent from the field on the afternoon but made up for it with an active, effective showing at the foul line (30-of-41). Sindarius Thornwell led the way with 17 points, Laimonas Chatkevicius poured in 16, Duane Notice and Williams had 11 and 10 points, respectively, and Mindaugas Kacinas hauled in 10 rebounds.
The Gamecocks' overall play has been poor this season, as they came into this tournament scoring just 68.8 ppg, while allowing 70.7 ppg. Williams (15.2 ppg) paced the team in scoring while Thornwell (13.5 ppg) was named to the SEC All- Freshman Team.
Tennessee (20-11, 11-7) closed out the regular season with four straight wins to surge up to the No. 4 seed and earn the final coveted double bye into the quarterfinals. The squad has been able to re-establish itself on the national radar with its hot streak, as it now figures to be on the positive side of the NCAA Tournament bubble following a dominant 72-45 blow over Missouri in the regular-season finale last Saturday. The Vols' most noteworthy asset has been their stout defense, which allows just 61.8 ppg on 41.1 percent shooting, and their offensive output (.447, 72.5 ppg) has been more than good enough in support. Jordan McRae paces the squad with 18.8 ppg, but he's gone cold of late by averaging just 11.0 ppg over the last three. Jarnell Stokes acts as an anchor in the paint with 14.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg and more than a block per contest. Jeronne Maymon (10.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is also an asset in the frontcourt, while Josh Richardson nets 9.5 ppg.
South Carolina's run through the tournament thus far has been impressive, but its momentum is likely to come to an end against a well-balanced Tennessee squad that has had nearly a week to rest up and prepare for this bout.
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