South Carolina's SEC tournament seeding is secure, being in the No. 2 Eastern spot and playing at 3:15 p.m. on March 13. The Gamecocks' opponent has been narrowed to three finalists.
Georgia will play the winner of Saturday's Ole Miss-Mississippi State game in the March 12 opening round. That winner will advance to play USC.
The Gamecocks (20-8, 9-6 SEC) beat the Rebels 82-71, lost to MSU 75-70 and beat Georgia 79-68. They'll play UGa again at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Should USC win its first-round game, regular-season champ LSU, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama or Ole Miss could await in the semifinals.
WHAT'S GOING ON?: For the second straight game, USC's interior defense was brutalized and gave up a career-high in points.
Last week, it was Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy (28) and Jermaine Beal (27) who each hit the plateau. The Commodores shot 62 percent, by far USC's worst allowance of the year.
Tennessee's J.P. Prince notched 20 points and the Volunteers (19-10, 10-5) shot 54.7 percent. That was USC's fourth-worst of the year, following Vanderbilt, the first game at Tennessee (58.5 percent) and the loss to Clemson (55.4).
"Both teams were scoring too easy and we were not doing what we needed to do defensively," coach Darrin Horn said. "We gave them way too many easy baskets tonight."
WHERE TO GO?: The Gamecocks' defense seemed mystified by the different looks the Vols presented. UT would run with USC early and match point-for-point, then start going inside to Prince and Tyler Smith. When the Gamecocks would collapse on those two, Tennessee would go to its outside shooters.
"We did some switching," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "I think our length was a factor; they had to shoot over us."
I'M BACK: Tennessee's Wayne Chism, after going scoreless and fouling out in his previous game against USC, scored 15 points on Thursday. Six of those were on 3-pointers, his 28th and 29th of the season.
HELD: USC's quest for a perfect home SEC season was halted. The Gamecocks ended 7-1.
The 1996-97 SEC regular-season championship team remains the only Gamecock squad to accomplish the feat.
IF ONLY: Zam Fredrick's scorching start -- three 3-pointers among his first four shots -- devolved into a 5-for-12 night. Fredrick nor anybody else could find much room to operate once the Volunteers clamped down.
"We've got to have a short memory," Fredrick said. "Got to get back tomorrow, get ready to finish the season."
SO LONG: Besides honoring Fredrick and Branden Conrad at Senior Night, USC saluted manager Adam Ribock. Ribock, the son of former USC great John Ribock, was given a framed No. 41 jersey as part of his sendoff.
RECRUITING: Forward Johndre Jefferson from Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) Junior College was visiting USC for the game, and a few media sources reported he has verbally committed to the Gamecocks.
Jefferson (6-foot-9, 210 pounds) averages a double-double and is originally from Santee, where he played at Lake Marion High School. He brings USC's 2009-10 recruiting class to four players, along with Lakeem Jackson, Ramon Galloway and Steve Spinella.
If all of the players from this year's team return, that would be 13 scholarships. A possibility to add another player could be to put guard Robert Wilder back to walk-on status.