for this game

Tennessee overpowers South Carolina

Mar 9, 2008 - 10:55 PM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- After a few anxious moments in the first half, Tennessee's home finale turned into one big party.

Chris Lofton scoring 28 points as the fourth-ranked Volunteers put the finishing touches on the best regular season in school history with an 89-56 Southeastern Conference victory over South Carolina on Sunday.

Tennessee (28-3, 14-2 SEC East) nursed a 38-37 halftime lead, but blew out South Carolina with an overwhelming second half in which it outscored the Gamecocks, 51-19.

The Volunteers extended their school record for wins in a season and celebrated the SEC regular-season title they won with an 89-86 win at Florida on Wednesday.

Tennessee, which also staked its claim to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, raised a banner in Thompson-Boling Arena, then cut down the nets.

"We have been celebrating and feeling good since the Florida game," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.

Still, Pearl did not want to celebrate too much with the SEC tournament beginning later this week.

"We have got a lot of work to do to get better," he added. "The prizes are getting larger and the opportunities are opening up. I thought in the second half our defense was terrific. We should be able to go into the SEC tournament fresh."

Lofton, the SEC's all-time leader in 3-pointers made, converted 6-of-10 shots from the arc in his final home appearance. Fellow senior JaJuan Smith added 17 points and nine rebounds in his last home game.

It was Tennessee's second lopsided win of the season against South Carolina, which fell to the Volunteers, 80-56, at home on January 12.

Mike Holmes paced South Carolina with 15 points. He was the only player in double figures for the Gamecocks.

After shooting 52 percent (15-of-29) in the first half, South Carolina was limited to 20 percent in the second, making just 7-of-35 shots.

"We came out colder than the frigid Smoky Mountains to start the second half," said South Carolina coach Dave Odom, who is retiring at the end of the season. "We could not make a shot, and they came out on fire."

Tennessee shot a sizzling 62 percent (21-of-34) after intermission. The Volunteers were held to 42 percent (13-of-31) in the opening 20 minutes.

Smith held Devan Downey, South Carolina's leading scorer, to two points on 1-of-9 shooting - 16 below his average.

"JaJuan has established himself as one of the best defensive players in the country," Pearl said. "He took it on himself to stop Downey and did an outstanding job."

Lofton moved into fifth place on Tennessee's all-time scoring list with 2,067 points, passing Dale Ellis.

Tennessee extended its home-court winning streak to 32 games - the second-longest in school history - and finished 16-0 at home for the second straight season.