Despite losing 40-straight games to the No. 8 Lady Vols, the South Carolina women’s basketball team came into Thursday night’s contest with confidence and ended the losing streak with a 64-60 upset victory in Thompson-Boling Arena.
     
Senior guard Markeshia Grant was the answer for the Gamecocks (18-5, 7-3 SEC) on the night, scoring a game-high 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range. She was one of three Gamecocks to finish in double figures, along with La’Keisha Sutton (12) and Ieasia Walker (11).
     
The Lady Vols (16-6, 7-2) finished with only two players in double-figures, senior forward Glory Johnson’s 13 and freshman point guard Ariel Massengale’s 12. All-American senior guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen finished with 8 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
    
The loss also ended the Lady Vols’ 28-home game win-streak in SEC play, which dated back Feb. 14, 2008 when UT lost to LSU 78-62.
   
 “To say we didn’t play particularly well for 40 minutes tonight would be an understatement but you have to credit South Carolina for that,” said Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt. “They executed a great game plan from start to finish and showed it over and over for 40 minutes.”
    
Despite a sluggish start the first five minutes of the game, in which Tennessee trailed 7-2, the Lady Vols found their rhythm on the court.
    
Massengale led an 8-0 UT run, which was capped by a Stricklen lay-up that put the Lady Vols up 17-13 with 8:46 left in the first half.
    
The Gamecocks fought right back, as Grant and Walker went to work by combining for all 16 of USC’s points in the final seven minutes of the half. The solid shooting of the guards put South Carolina up 29-28 at halftime.
    
“She (Grant) got off to a great start and that has been an Achilles heel to us this season letting star players put up big numbers against us,” said UT associate head coach Holly Warlick. “That’s been a focal point for us but obviously it hasn’t been big enough.”
    
Grant started off the second half the same way she had finished the first, hitting her sixth 3-pointer of the game with 15:55 left, giving the Lady Gamecocks a 46-41 lead. However, the momentum quickly shifted to the other sideline.
     
An 8-0 Lady Vols’ run put them up 49-46.
     
Junior guard Kamiko Williams’ field goal extended the lead for the Lady Vols to 57-50.
    
But the Gamecocks fought right back with a 11-3 run, in which Grant hit her seventh three of the game, and USC regained the lead at 61-60 with just under two minutes left in the game.
     
The Gamecocks closed out the game with two made free throws by Sutton with twelve seconds left to close the game out.
    
 South Carolina shot 39.4 percent (26-of-66) from the floor on the night while Tennessee shot 41.4 percent (24-of-58).
     
“Hats off to South Carolina,” said Warlick. “They hit big shots when they needed too and we didn’t have an answer for them in the last four minutes of the game. We always get everybody’s best.”
     
With the loss Tennessee drop to 16-6 on the season and 7-2 in SEC play, while South Carolina improves their record to 18-5 and 7-3 in the SEC (3rd place).
     
The Lady Vols next game will be on Sunday, Feb.  5 against the Auburn Tigers (11-12, 3-7 SEC).