COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Bobby Maze hopes he's made an impact on Tennessee fans. A few more performances like Saturday and he won't have to wonder anymore.
Maze had 14 points and held Devan Downey, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer, to his lowest output this season as the Vols (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) rallied late to defeat South Carolina 63-55.Maze, a senior, understands his time playing college ball is running out."As the clock ticks down, I want people to remember me here," Maze said. "That I gave it my all on the floor and against the best players, I rise to the occasion."He's done that this season.Maze had a season-high 16 points and played tight defense on Kansas star Sharron Collins in Tennessee's 76-68 victory over the top-ranked Jayhawks on Jan. 10.Maze checked Downey relentlessly, forcing him into a 4-of-18 shooting performance and 15 points, eight below his average."Bobby always gets up for the bigger games against the bigger guards, well Downey's little," chuckled Tennessee forward Wayne Chism, referring to the 5-foot-9 Gamecock star.Chism finished with 11 points and J.P. Prince had 10 as the Vols (20-6, 8-4) reached the 20-win mark for the fifth straight season."That's a big milestone," Chism said. "Now, we've got to work on number 21."With Maze in the backcourt, Tennessee has a chance to get many more.The Vols had been lethargic most of the game and trailed 46-43 after Downey's two foul shots with 9:18 to go. That's when the Vols took control and Kenny Hall's jam off a feed from Chism put them ahead for good, 47-46.By the time Prince stole the ball at halfcourt and went in for layup 4 minutes later, Tennessee was up 56-49, and on the way to its seventh consecutive victory over South Carolina (14-12, 5-7).Brandis Raley-Ross had 16 points to lead the Gamecocks, who have lost four of six since their upset of then-No. 1 Kentucky last month.Still, the Gamecocks hung around long enough that it appeared a typical home showing by Downey -- he hadn't had fewer than 24 points in South Carolina's previous five home SEC games -- might pull this one out, too.But Tennessee tightened up its defense to blunt any comebacks. The Vols held South Carolina to just 1-of-12 shooting from behind the arc.Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn says his team was in the thick of it even after losing the lead."We just had a stretch where we did not score at all," he said.For all of Tennessee's success this season, the Vols have struggled on the road in the SEC. Three of their four league losses have come away from home, including the last two -- Vanderbilt and Kentucky.South Carolina hasn't been the easiest out at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks had won five of their past six here, including the win over Kentucky on Jan. 26.Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said winning on the road was the "great separator" in the SEC."This is one that the rest of the league won't get," he said.For a long while, it looked like Tennessee would join those others who have lost here.Maybe it was the sunny, 60-degree weather outside, but the Vols didn't look ready for this one early.Chism and Prince both had two fouls less than 11 minutes in, and Tennessee had 11 first-half turnovers, nearly equaling its game average of 12.8.The Gamecocks used the long-range shooting of Raley-Ross to offset Downey's slow start. The SEC's leading scorer was 1 of 8 as the Volunteers ran two or three players at him to keep him out of synch the first 20 minutes.Raley-Ross hit consecutive 3-pointers and Ramon Galloway added another as South Carolina moved ahead 22-18.Tennessee made had two field goals over the final 7 minutes of the half and trailed 28-24, the fourth straight game it was behind at halftime.To Pearl, that deficit was like a 10-point lead as bad as Tennessee looked."I told our guys, 'It's not over at halftime,'" Pearl said. "We just hung in there."