Tennessee coach Jerry Green didn't want to get carried away with his team's 70-69 upset of No. 13 South Carolina.
Asked if it was the biggest win of the year for the Vols, Green laughed and said: "It's better than Winthrop, certainly."
That it was. The victory was Tennessee's fourth in a row, its longest Southeastern Conference winning streak in nine years, and second over a ranked team in a month (Mississippi on Jan. 17). It gives a boost to the Vols' slim hopes for their first trip to the NCAA tournament this decade.
Freshman Tony Harris scored 22 points and made a key steal in the waning seconds to lead the Volunteers (15-5, 5-5) to their first victory over the Gamecocks (17-4, 7-3) in the last five tries.
The victory reversed a 30-point South Carolina victory over the Vols less than three weeks ago in Columbia.
"We didn't play with a lot of enthusiasm and weren't particularly ready," said South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler, whose team had won seven in a row, the last three by a total of eight points. "Tennessee was better than they were in Columbia."
The biggest reason for that was Harris, who missed the earlier game against South Carolina with a leg injury. He also had seven assists and three steals Saturday to go with just two turnovers.
"I could care less about the 22 points," he said. ``The seven assists look good to me."
Brandon Wharton added 19 points for the Vols.
BJ McKie led the Gamecocks with 27 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the final margin to a point. Antonio Grant added 12 and Melvin Watson scored 10.
South Carolina took its last lead at 63-61 with 3:42 left on two free throws by Watson.
Tennessee tied it at 63-all on a steal and put-back by Torrey Harris with 3:14 to go.
After a South Carolina turnover, Tennessee took a 66-63 lead with 2½ minutes left on the first career 3-pointer from sophomore Isaiah Victor, who had been 0-for-3 from long range in his career.
"We were struggling at the time Isaiah made the 3," Green said. ``We don't want him shooting over hands, but it looked to me like he was wide open."
William Gallman's free throw pulled the Gamecocks to within a basket at 66-64, then South Carolina's defense forced Tennessee into a shot clock violation and the Gamecocks got it back with a minute left.
McKie slipped on a drive and the Vols' Torrey Harris blocked his shot, collected the loose ball and was fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
That's when Tony Harris made the defensive play of the game, stripping the ball from a driving Watson on the next possession when South Carolina had a chance to tie. Harris was fouled and made both free throws for a 68-64 Tennessee led with 18 seconds remaining.
After Gallman's tip-in with 8 seconds left cut the margin back to two points at 68-66, the Vols got the inbound pass to C.J. Black against the Gamecock's full-court pressure and arris broke free for an easy basket with three seconds left, making McKie's 3 at the buzzer meaningless.
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