KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Markeshia Grant scored 27 points and South Carolina beat No. 8 Tennessee 64-60 on Thursday night for its first win over the Lady Volunteers since 1980.
The Gamecocks (18-5, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) were down 60-55, when Ashley Bruner hit a layup with 3:18 to play. The basket launched a 9-0 run for South Carolina to close out the game, and Ieasia Walker hit the go-ahead layup with 2:15 to play.
The Lady Vols had led 57-50 with 5:02 to play in the back-and-forth game, but a layup by Walker and a 3-pointer by Grant, one of seven by the senior, fired up the Gamecocks bench. Tennessee remained flat the rest of the way and missed five shots during South Carolina's game-ending run.
Tennessee outshot South Carolina 41.4 percent to 39.4 percent and held a 44-36 advantage in rebounding but had little answer for the Gamecocks guards. La'Keisha Sutton added 12 points, and Walker had 11.
Glory Johnson scored 13 points to lead Tennessee (16-6, 7-2). Ariel Massengale scored 12 points, and Shekinna Stricklen grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Lady Vols hadn't dropped a SEC game at home since a loss to LSU on Feb. 14, 2008, but have struggled in the first season since coach Pat Summitt announced she'd been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
It was the first victory for South Carolina in Knoxville and the Gamecocks' first win against Tennessee since a 56-52 victory on Jan. 23, 1980, when now-associate head coach Holly Warlick was a point guard for Tennessee. The Lady Vols had won 40 straight meetings since then.
South Carolina has been laying the foundation for one of its strongest seasons ever. It now owns the program's best record since the 2001-02 season which saw the Gamecocks finish 20-3 and reach the NCAA regional finals.
They've managed the feat with the same kind of sharp focus on defense that has been the hallmark of so many Summitt-coached teams. The Gamecocks entered the game ranked second in the nation in limiting opponents to 47.5 points per game and top in the nation with 20.1 3-point shooting defense.
That defense frustrated the Lady Vols all over the floor. They struggled to get second-chance points, hit just one 3-pointer and turned the ball over 11 times.
The Gamecocks' last win over a top 10 team came in a 71-52 decision over then-No. 6 Vanderbilt on Jan. 3, 2002, in Columbia. The highest ranked team the Gamecocks have defeated in coach Dawn Staley's four seasons was then-No. 14 Georgia on Feb. 25, 2010, when South Carolina left Athens with a 52-42 victory.