COLUMBIA, S.C. – A career-high 25 points from junior John Fulkerson wasn’t enough to lead the Tennessee basketball team past South Carolina, as the Vols fell, 63-61, inside Colonial Life Arena Saturday.
Tennessee’s 20 turnovers proved costly. The loss was the first for UT (14-11, 6-6 SEC) against South Carolina (16-9, 8-4 SEC) since the 2016-17 season.
Fulkerson’s 25 points came on a career-high eight made field goals. He also added a game-high nine rebounds.
SEC Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Yves Pons added 13 points, seven boards and three blocks.
The opening 12 minutes were highlighted by defense, as each team combined to shoot .333 from the field. The Vols were led during that stretch by Fulkerson, who scored eight points to propel UT to a 15-11 lead at the under-eight media timeout.
The teams went bucket-for-bucket, with neither side taking a lead larger than six over the final 7:27 of the half. The squads entered the locker rooms with South Carolina holding a slim 30-29 advantage.
Out of the break, two quick 3-pointers from the Gamecocks increased their lead to 36-29 less than two minutes in to the second half. The Vols followed up those two possessions with an 11-0 run over a 3:15 stretch, with five of those points coming from Fulkerson, to take back the lead to the tune of a 40-36 score line.
South Carolina responded with a few timely baskets to knot the score at 44-44, before the Vols reeled off a 10-3 run to take their largest lead of the contest to that point, holding a 54-47 advantage.
In the game’s final eight minutes, the Gamecocks battled back and used multiple timely baskets and defensive stops to close out the victory.
New Flow, Same Fulky: John Fulkerson continued his stellar play in SEC action, eclipsing his previous career-high for the third time during league play and for the second time in the last four games.
La Séquence Continues: SEC Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Yves Pons blocked three shots on the night. He has now blocked a shot in all 25 games for the Vols this season and is just 10 blocks away from breaking UT’s single-season blocks record.
Up Next: Tennessee returns to actions when it hits the hardwood at Thompson-Boling Arena for a Tuesday night clash with in-state rival Vanderbilt. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.