South Carolina had a chance to win the game on the final play Saturday in Knoxville but came up short and fell to Tennessee, 56-55.
South Carolina (8-7, 0-2 SEC) had the ball in the closing seconds with a chance to take the lead, but AJ Lawson drove into John Fulkerson in the lane and was called for an offensive foul. Tennessee (10-5, 2-1) threw a long pass that Jordan Bowden caught while staying inbounds to run out the clock.
Maik Kotsar led South Carolina with 17 points, while Jermaine Couisnard had 15. Lawson, who entered the game averaging a team-high 15.2 points, had just four points Saturday and missed all seven of his field-goal attempts.
Tennessee led 56-53 and had possession in the final minute, but Lawson stole the ball from Santiago Vescovi and hit a pair of free throws with 36.5 seconds left to cut the lead to 56-55.
Bowden missed a 3-pointer on the Vols' next possession, but the ball went out of bounds off South Carolina with 10.4 seconds left. Tennessee then missed a desperation attempt as the shot clock expired, giving South Carolina one last chance that ended with the Lawson charge.
Tennessee entered Saturday having lost three of its last four games at Thompson-Boling Arena, a stretch that followed a 31-game home winning streak.
Tennessee regained its home-court edge Saturday despite shooting just 25.9 percent (14 of 54) from the floor and 19.4 percent (6 of 31) from 3-point range. South Carolina shot just 32.8 percent (20 of 61) overall and 15.4 percent (2 of 13) from beyond the arc.
The difference came at the foul line.
Tennessee made 22 of 28 on free-throw attempts, including 14 of 16 in the second half. South Carolina went 7-of-15 in the second half and 13-of-22 for the game.
The Gamecocks didn't make a field goal the final 2:31 and shot just 31.4 percent (11-for-35) from the field in the second half.
Kotsar continued his solid play, finishing with a game-high 17 points (7-for-11 FGs). He also added eight rebounds. Kotsar has now scored in double figures in 10 of the team's last 12 games.
After missing the team's SEC opener vs. Florida with a back strain earlier this week, Couisnard returned to lead the bench with 15 points. It's the fifth time he's scored in double figures this season (first since scoring 16 at UMASS on Dec. 4).
Justin Minaya pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, marking his second career game with 10 or more boards. He had a career-high 11 rebounds in the team's season-opener vs. North Alabama (Nov. 6).
The Gamecocks return to Columbia to host No. 14/13 Kentucky at Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday at 6:30 PM ET (SEC Network).