WBB: Gamecocks Fall to Commodores, 74-60

The South Carolina women's basketball team blew a late 10-point lead before Vanderbilt outscored the Gamecocks 18-4 in overtime to escape with a win. The Commodores will be the #3 seed in next week's SEC Tournament, while the Gamecocks will be the #5 seed. GamecockAnthem has next week's SEC Tournament brackets before the SEC has officially released them.

The South Carolina women's basketball team had the fourth seed in their hand. Tennessee had just defeated LSU, Kentucky was on their way to beating Auburn, and Carolina had their game with Vanderbilt under control. La'Keisha Sutton had just scored six consecutive points to break a tie and Ieasia Walker and Markeshia Grant had added lay-ups and the Gamecocks found themselves with a 48-38 lead with under nine minutes to play.

Then it all went horribly wrong. Vanderbilt went on an 18-8 run to close regulation to send it to overtime, then outscored the Gamecocks 18-4 in the extra frame to give the Commodores a 74-60 win.

"Vandy is the type of team that has been in that type of situation before," coach Dawn Staley said after the game. "We try to get it back very quickly rather than moving the ball and figuring out where we can find mismatches. I thought we did that well to build a lead, but late in the ballgame the thing that has been killing us lately is free throws and lay-ups. If we're able to convert like we were the first 35 minutes of the game, we win the game."

The Gamecocks shot just 53% from the free throw line and 17% from the field in overtime.

With the Vandy win and Georgia loss to Florida, Vandy will be the #3 seed in next week's SEC Tournament. For Carolina, the loss coupled with Auburn's loss to Kentucky and LSU's loss to Tennessee, there's still a three-way tie for fifth with all three splitting with each other. LSU drops from the tie-breaker due to a 0-1 record against Kentucky, the SEC's #2 seed. South Carolina split with Kentucky and Auburn lost twice so Carolina gets the fifth seed.

After winning the jump to start the OT period, Vanderbilt's Elan Brown sank a three-pointer from the top of the key. After the two teams each made on of two free throws, Vanderbilt's Jence Rhoads took over. Rhoads - who scored six points in overtime - easily drove to the basket on consecutive possessions to give the Commodores a 64-57 lead. Stephanie Holzer - who led the Commodore comeback with 15 second-half and overtime points - sank a pair of free throws to give Vanderbilt a 66-57 lead. After a Sutton three-pointer and a Brown free throw made it 67-60, Rhoads again drove the lane and made a pull-up jumpter to stretch the lead back to nine. A pair of Angela Puleo free throws, a Gabby Smith free throw, and a Holzer jumper with just one second left in the game made the final margin.

"Jence Rhoads put her team on her back and carried them to a win," Staley said. "All credit goes to her ability to make plays at the end of the game."

After Vanderbilt's Tiffany Clarke scored to open the game, Carolina would score the next nine points. Senior Jewel May got it going, scoring on the first Gamecock possession of the game. Walker - who had 12 first half points - hit a three-pointer, Ashley Bruner scored on a nice up-and-under to stretch the lead to 7-2. Walker ended the run with a pair of free throws to give Carolina a 9-2 lead five minutes into the game.

After a pair of Vanderbilt baskets pulled the Commodores to within three, Valerie Nainima drained a three for her only points of the half. Sutton followed it up with a fastbreak lay-up to stretch the lead back to eight, 14-6. Courtney Newton would later nail a three-pointer from the elbow to give the Gamecocks their largest lead of the half, 22-13.

After trading baskets Vanderbilt went on an 11-2 run over the next three minutes to tie the game. Rhoades started the run with back-to-back lay-ups. Stephanie Holzer scored inside the paint to cut it to 24-19. After a Sutton basket, Jasmine Lister drained a three, Elan Brown hit a pair of free throws and then tied it with an inside jumper with 18 seconds left in the half. Walker hit an off-balance, contested jumper to end the half and give the Gamecocks a slim 28-26 lead heading to the locker room.

In the end, it was another letdown for a Gamecock program that has battled to get over the hump for years. Carolina was on the brink of securing a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but now must win a few games in the SEC Tournament to have any hopes of making it to The Dance.

"It's sad that we didn't send our seniors off on a higher note here at the Colonial Life Arena, but we still have a lot of basketball life," Staley said. "We win a couple of games in the SEC Tournament I think we're still going to be in the conversation with the NCAA committee."

Carolina will play Mississippi - the #12 seed - Thursday night at 7:30 on FSN. The winner will face Georgia Friday night at 7:30 on FSN in the quarterfinals.



Sunday's Scores

Kentucky 76, Auburn 62
Vanderbilt 74, South Carolina 60 (OT)
Tennessee 80, LSU 60
Florida 74, Georgia 71
Mississippi State 65, Mississippi 55
Alabama 92, Arkansas 79


Final SEC Standings

Tennessee - 16-0
Kentucky - 11-5
Vanderbilt - 10-6
Georgia - 10-6
South Carolina - 8-8
Auburn - 8-8
LSU - 8-8
Florida - 7-9
Arkansas - 6-10
Alabama - 5-11
Mississippi State - 4-12
Mississippi - 3-13


SEC Tournament

Thursday


Game 1 - Florida vs. Arkansas
Game 2 - Alabama vs. LSU
Game 3 - South Carolina vs. Mississippi
Game 4 - Mississippi State vs. Auburn

Friday

Game 5 - Tennessee vs. Florida/Arkansas
Game 6 - Kentucky vs. Alabama/LSU
Game 7 - Georgia vs. South Carolina/Mississippi
Game 8 - Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State/Auburn

Saturday

Game 9 - Game 5 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner
Game 10 - Game 6 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner

Sunday
SEC Championship


Game 11 - Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner.

NOTE 1 - South Carolina gets fifth seed in tiebreaker over Auburn. South Carolina split with the #2 seed Kentucky, while Auburn lost twice to Kentucky.

NOTE 2 - Auburn wins tiebreaker with LSU for sixth seed. Tiebreaker goes all the way to #9 seed Arkansas. Auburn beat Arkansas, LSU lost twice to Arkansas.




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