Cold shooting dooms USC

South Carolina came to play on the defensive end Tuesday night when it hosted a hot Vanderbilt team. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks couldn't put the ball in the basket in the first half as Vanderbilt took a huge second half lead and cruised to a 67-57 win over the Gamecocks.

When it rains it pours. South Carolina's offense in Tuesday night's contest with Vanderbilt provided nothing more than a sprinkle early. The Gamecocks shot just 19% in the first half, missing all eight of its three-point attempts as Vanderbilt cruised to a 67-57 win in the Colonial Life Arena. With the win Vanderbilt improved to 12-4 overall and 2-0 in the SEC, while Carolina dropped to 8-8 overall and 0-2 in the league.

"First half didn't finish some lay-ups, missed a couple of easy ones and don't score, and second half for whatever reason we score 45 points and were pretty effective doing it," Carolina head coach Darrin Horn said. "We have to continue to find a way to put those things together over the course of 40 minutes and that's going to continue to be a challenge."

Early on neither team provided much as each team went on a scoring drought that seemed to last as long as the 500 year drought in Chile's Atacama Desert. Vandy's Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley hit back-to-back three pointers early in the game as Vandy took a 6-2 lead. From there Vandy would go six minutes without a point as Carolina slowly fought back and took an 8-6 lead led by Damontre Harris, who scored seven of Carolina's 12 points in the first half. Harris would finish with his first double-double in a Gamecock uniform, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"Damontre Harris was tremendous tonight against a potential-NBA draft pick (Ezeli) with a double-double, and was incredibly active and did a lot of things," Horn said. "He continues to show consistency and get better. We have to keep grinding and keep getting better and get ready for another really good team Saturday."

From there Carolina would go nearly six minutes without a point as Vandy took a 15-8 lead. Vanderbilt would take a 22-12 lead into the locker room led by Tinsley's first half high of 11 points. Carolina leading scorer Malik Cooke was held scoreless in the half on 0-for-3 shooting.

"We felt the key to the game was their ability to shoot the three point shot and the number of guys they have to shoot it," Horn said. "With a team that has so many guys that can shoot it that well, you try to focus in a on a few and I think in the first half I thought we did a terrific job. They were 4-of-7, but (John) Jenkins had none and between Jenkins and Taylor they had four points and (Vandy had) 22 overall. That's a team that's averaging 80+ points a game."

The Commodores put the game away early in the second half as they began to heat up from behind the arc. Jenkins hit a pair of three pointers in transition around four made free throws as Vandy quickly led by 17, 32-15. The Commodores shot 60% in the second half and connected on 9-of-15 from behind the arc. Jenkins hit 4-of-7 three pointers in the second half and Taylor connected on 2-of-3.

"In the second half they made a ton of three's and you have to credit that," Horn said. "Even if you're open you still have to make them. When a team makes 13 three's I don't know if there's a whole lot we can do. We did not guard the way we needed to in the second half and they did get too many open ones."

Bruce Ellington and Cooke tried to keep the Gamecocks in the game as Ellington scored 18 of his team-high 20 points in the second half and Cooke scored all 9 of his points, but Vanderbilt was unconscious from the field in the half.

"Bruce, especially with us not scoring, gives us a little bit more ability to get into the paint and do some things, and responded really well in the second half," Horn said. "Not only did he score, but we saw growth in his game where he did it on 12 shots and they were all good, attacking the basket shots."

The first half shooting woes will surely be the blame for the loss, as the Gamecocks shot 63% in the second half and connected on 4-of-5 three pointers, as well as making all seven free throws.

"It's a case of us needing to continue to grow and mature where we're locked in defensively and incredibly active in the first half and only getting 12 points," Horn said. "I think we let it affect us. The reality of it is we can't let that affect us. We've had a couple of halves against really good teams that we've scored 40+ points in a half. It's mental as much as it's anything in some ways. It's hard to get a young team to continue to grind that way when they're not seeing the ball go into the basket."

Carolina returns to action Saturday night when they host #19 Florida at 7:00 at the Colonial Life Arena.

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