ATLANTA (AP) - Tennessee is still alive for a No. 1 seed in the
NCAA tournament. It sure wasn't easy.
Chris Lofton hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds remaining and the
fourth-ranked Volunteers survived South Carolina's bid for a huge
upset, sending Dave Odom into retirement with an 89-87 victory over
the Gamecocks in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference
Tennessee (29-3) already claimed its first SEC championship in
41 years and hopes to lock up a top seed by winning the league
tournament. South Carolina (14-18) made it tough in Odom's final
game; he announced in January he would step down at the end of the
Wayne Chism led the Volunteers with 23 points, helping them
dominate on the inside. Lofton was held to 10 points on 4-of-12
shooting, but the senior guard came through when it counted.
After Dominique Archie scored off a brilliant pass from Devan
Downey, putting South Carolina ahead 87-86 with 21 seconds
remaining, Tennessee hustled the ball upcourt and called timeout to
set up a play. While the Volunteers had been doing most of their
damage in the lane, they set up a screen for Lofton at the top of
His open look hit nothing but net, just his second 3-pointer in
10 attempts on the day.
Downey came up short on a 3-pointer that could have won it for
South Carolina, but the Gamecocks got a final chance when the
rebound went out of bounds off a Tennessee player with 1.1 seconds
left. Evaldas Baniulis inbounded to Archie, but the pass was low
and got stuck between his legs while he was being tightly guarded
by Tyler Smith.
The horn sounded without Archie even getting off a shot.
The 65-year-old Odom, who coached at South Carolina for seven
years after a successful 12-year stint at Wake Forest, walked off
the court slowly with his head down. He finished with a
disappointing record of 128-104 with the Gamecocks, taking the
school to only one NCAA tournament.
Downey scored 26 points and Zam Fredrick had 24 for the
Gamecocks, who certainly can't be accused of giving up as they were
after a humiliating 89-56 loss to Tennessee in their regular-season
finale last weekend. South Carolina knocked off LSU in the opening
round and came within a shot of upsetting the powerful Vols.
But Tennessee moves on to face the winner of the
Vanderbilt-Arkansas game in Saturday's semifinals.