- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Jaime Nared loves the adrenaline rush coursing through her during big games.

That usually leads to good things for Tennessee.

Nared had a career-high 27 points, including two clutch free throws with 5.9 seconds left, and Tennessee stopped No. 4 South Carolina’s 30-game home win streak in the Southeastern Conference with a 76-74 victory Monday night.

“Every time we play top teams, every time I see my teammates on the court, playing hard and getting stops, that’s what gets me going,” Nared said.

It worked for Nared for the second time in the past three Mondays. She hit a tiebreaking jumper as Tennessee wiped out a 15-point Notre Dame lead in a 71-69 victory on Jan. 16.

Nared was fouled after the Gamecocks (18-2, 8-1) rallied from 11 points down to tie it at 74 on Bianca Cuevas-Moore’s 3-pointer with 14.7 seconds remaining.

Tyasha Harris was called for guarding Nared too closely - “I tripped on her foot so there’s not much I could’ve done,” Nared said - and the junior calmly made both foul shots.

Cuevas-Moore’s 3-point try in the final seconds bounced away, and the Lady Vols (14-7, 5-3) celebrated their third top-10 victory this season, adding South Carolina to No. 10 Stanford in December and the Irish earlier this month.

In this one, Tennessee shut down South Carolina’s twin-post powers in A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates, who came in averaging more than 30 points and 18 rebounds combined.

But the two were held in check because of early fouls that kept them on the bench most of the first two quarters and a technical foul on Wilson in the third period that sent her back to the sideline.

Tennessee’s 6-foot-6 Mercedes Russell, with room to move, controlled the middle with 16 points and 10 rebounds for her 12th double-double this season.

Diamond DeShields had 21 points for Tennessee.

“We play big in big games,” Russell said. “When we play like this, it’s hard to beat us.”

It was the Lady Vols’ first win over a top-five team since topping No. 4 South Carolina in 2014 and their first road win over a top-five team since winning at No. 5 UConn on Jan. 6, 2007.

For South Carolina, it was the first SEC loss at home since Texas A&M;’s 50-48 victory nearly four years ago on Feb. 10, 2013. The defeat also opened up what looked like a closed race for the SEC crown.

The three-time defending SEC champion Gamecocks took control with last week’s 64-61 win over previously unbeaten and fourth-ranked Mississippi State.

Now, the Gamecocks fall into a tie for the top with the Bulldogs.

Wilson had 14 points and Coates finished with seven. Cuevas-Moore led the Gamecocks with 18 points.

“You don’t have your two All-Americans for most of the first half, it’s going to impact you in ways you can’t even prepare for,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said.

THE BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Lady Vols looked much better than their 14-7 record. Tennessee shot 54.8 percent for the first half, its best showing in its past eight games.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks once more showed how dependent they are on their two tall stars - and how much they can struggle with Coates and Wilson out of the lineup.

REUNION

DeShields reunited with childhood friends Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray of South Carolina. Gray and DeShields played together at North Carolina before each transferred. “It’s good to see them happy and in a good place,” DeShields said. “I told them good luck and keep playing hard.”

SUMMITT TRIBUTE

Fans attending took part in a card display in honor of the late Pat Summitt that spelled out “We Back Pat” in the lower bowl of the Colonial Life Arena between the third and fourth quarters. Tennessee coach Holly Warlick thanked the Gamecocks for the tribute, although she didn’t get to see it. If she had, Warlick said Summitt would’ve likely said to “Get my butt in the huddle and coach.”

UP NEXT

Tennessee returns home to play LSU on Thursday night.

South Carolina travels to No. 25 Kentucky on Thursday night.

___

More AP College Basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide