Tyler Smith had 22 points and J.P. Prince scored 20 as Tennessee clinched a share of the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division with an 86-70 victory over South Carolina on Thursday night.
The Volunteers won their third straight. While the Gamecocks can still earn a piece of the division crown with a win over Georgia and a Vols loss to Alabama this weekend, Tennessee's sweep of South Carolina this year earned it the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament.
Tennessee's win also eliminated any chance for Kentucky to earn a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. The Cats can still clinch the No. 3 seed in the SEC East with a win Saturday at Florida.
A UK win over the Gators would set up a first-round meeting with Arkansas on Thursday at 9:45 p.m.
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The Gamecocks hadn't lost a league game at home this season. However, they couldn't match Tennessee's inside power. The Volunteers held a 44-22 rebounding margin.
Devan Downey and Zam Fredrick had 16 points each to lead the Gamecocks, who were blown out for a second straight game after a 96-83 defeat at Vanderbilt.
Fredrick's fourth and final three-pointer tied the game at 46-all with 18:42 left. Then the Vols' speed, strength and athleticism took control with a 27-10 run the next 12 minutes.
Prince had eight of his season-high performance during the streak, many as he drove past Gamecocks defenders to the hoop. By the time freshman Scotty Hopson finished a three-point play, Tennessee led 73-56 and celebrated its third division title in Coach Bruce Pearl's four seasons.
There was much on the line, and both teams played like it right away.
With less than 5 minutes gone, Tennessee led 16-15 with the teams combining to go 12-for-15 from the field. Fredrick, one of the Gamecocks' two departing seniors honored before the game, opened with three three-pointers in the stretch as the teams looked ready to break all sorts of scoring marks.
While the shot-making slackened, the pace and intensity did not.
The Vols led by as many as seven points in the opening half, but South Carolina reeled them back each time.
Downey closed the half with a short jumper as the Vols led 44-40 at the break.
No. 11 Villanova 97, Providence 80: Scottie Reynolds scored 23 points and helped the Wildcats finish a perfect season at the Pavilion and earn a double-bye in the Big East tournament.
Weyinmi Efejuku finished with 29 points for Providence.
Stanford 74, No. 21 Arizona St. 64: Landry Fields scored 20 points and the Cardinal sent the Sun Devils to their third straight loss.
Anthony Goods scored 15 points and Lawrence Hill added 13 for the Cardinal.
James Harden scored 22 points and Jeff Pendergraph had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Sun Devils.
Transylvania: Senior guard Jackie Distler was named MVP in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and the Pioneers' Greg Todd was selected Coach of the Year.
Distler, from Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, helped lead the Pioneers to the regular-season league championship and their first conference tournament title. She averaged 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Todd, in his third season at Transy, won Coach of the Year for the first time.
Brittany Henderlight, a junior guard from Woodford County High School, joined Distler on the All-HCAC squad. Teammate Alex Adler, a forward from Highlands, was named to the all-freshman team.