COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina’s Maik Kotsar swished four free throws in the final 21 seconds to deliver an improbable 63-61 win over Tennessee on Saturday.
Trailing 60-59 with 75 seconds left, the Gamecocks (16-9, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) were kicking themselves for their own mistakes. One of the nation’s worst teams at fouling and shooting free throws was once again living up to its twin reputation, with 24 fouls and 13 misses from the line.
Yet, after Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi turned the ball over, and Jordan Bowden fouled Kotsar to prevent a fast break, the senior forward calmly swished two free throws for a one-point lead.
Tennessee’s John Fulkerson was then called for a charge. Kotsar went back to the foul line and made a pair for a three-point lead. Coincidentally, it was Fulkerson who drew a charge to seal a 56-55 win over South Carolina on Jan. 11.
Charleston native Josiah-Jordan James made his first, then intentionally threw his second shot into the rim. He came up with the rebound but his shot attempt fell short.
Fulkerson scored a career-high 25 points while Kotsar led the Gamecocks with 13.
Tennessee: The Volunteers’ NCAA tournament hopes took a hit, but they can still get back onto the bubble down the stretch. They play Auburn twice and Kentucky once in their last six games.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won eight of 11 and can see the postseason glowing. They’re playing confidently even without Justin Minaya, out until at least March with a thumb injury.
Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt Tuesday in a quick turnaround. The Commodores are living in the basement of the SEC standings.
South Carolina is at Mississippi State on Wednesday. It will be the first of two games with the Bulldogs over 13 days.
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