January 22, 2016

After needing a stirring comeback to avoid another road loss, South Carolina will try to have an easier time when it visits a slumping SEC rival.

The 24th-ranked Gamecocks will attempt to send Tennessee to its fourth loss in five games while securing their most wins in seven seasons Saturday.

South Carolina (17-1, 4-1) trailed by 11 with 3:54 to play Tuesday at Mississippi but kept the Rebels off the scoreboard long enough to force overtime in a 77-74 victory. Michael Carrera, who had a team-best 19 points, hit the tying layup with 43 seconds left in regulation and scored the Gamecocks' final five points in the extra session.

"We needed a big win like this one," Carrera said. "We stayed together. We lose together, we win together and that's how we've been doing it the whole season."

South Carolina was blown out 73-50 in its previous road game Jan. 13 against Alabama - the Crimson Tide's only win in its first five league contests.

"Last week, we didn't play well but we had no life. We just kind of wanted the game to get over with," coach Frank Martin said. "(Against Ole Miss), our guys were engaged. They were enthused. They never shut up. They continued to encourage each other in every timeout. That's why today we were able to come back and figure out a way to win. Last week, we let the game get away from us."

South Carolina, which hasn't reached 18 wins since finishing 21-10 in 2008-09, matched its win total from last season with Tuesday's victory.

The Gamecocks face a Tennessee team that's also dropped back-to-back home games following an 8-0 start, its best since 2009-10.

The Volunteers (9-9, 2-4) lost 92-88 to then-No. 21 Texas A&M on Jan. 9 then fell 88-74 to a more unheralded Vanderbilt squad in their latest game Wednesday. They shot a season-low 32.9 percent against the Commodores and went 4 of 20 from 3-point range.

"We definitely have to bounce back. (South Carolina is) tough. Those guys are hard-nosed. We have to be ready to come to play Saturday," said senior guard Kevin Punter Jr., who scored 26 points and is second in the SEC with 22.6 per game.

South Carolina ended a 15-game losing streak against the Vols and earned its first win in Knoxville in 13 years with a 60-49 victory March 7. The Gamecocks shot 51.2 percent and Carrera went 6 of 7 from the floor while scoring a team-high 14 points.

They could use a better performance from co-leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell to prevail in this trip. The junior guard, averaging 12.1 points, has a combined seven in the past two road games while missing 19 of 21 shots.

Thornwell went 1 for 15 and scored five against Ole Miss. By contrast, he's averaging 19.7 points and shooting 48.6 percent in his last three home games.

Thornwell has shot 29.4 percent in four meetings with Tennessee, including 4 of 20 from 3-point range, but has still averaged 12.3 points - right around his career mark of 12.2. He had a combined 27 points in last season's two meetings and a team-best 17 in a 66-62 home loss Jan. 20, 2015, despite missing 10 of 14 shots.

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