Odom's Gamecocks Notch Twentieth Win!

Dave Odom's South Carolina Gamecocks reached the twenty win milestone Saturday night in impressive fashion by downing the Vanderbilt Commodores 82-75 in the Colonial Center. Vandy came into the game wanting revenge for an earlier close loss in Nashville which saw two players ejected for fighting - but the Gamecocks had other plans for the Dores ...

With two narrow losses within the last week, and a key two-game road trip to Arkansas and Florida looming, Saturday's SEC grudge match with the Vanderbilt Commodores was as close to a must-win situation for South Carolina as you can get in mid-February.

Throw into the pot the fact Kentucky and Florida had lost earlier in the day, and the stakes became even higher.

USC responded to the pressure well, posting a much-needed 82-75 victory over Vanderbilt before 16,092 at the Colonial Center Saturday night.

USC (20-5 overall, 7-4 in the SEC) reached the 20-win plateau for the second time in three seasons. Vanderbilt fell to 15-6 overall, 4-6 in the SEC.

The Gamecocks have a week off before traveling to Fayetteville, AR next Saturday for a game against the Razorbacks.

The contest was not as close as the final score indicated. USC dominated the middle portion of the game and built a 19-point lead (74-55) with 2:45 left before the Commodores scorched the nets down the stretch, hitting 8-of-13 shots, including four 3-pointers, to throw a minor scare into the Gamecocks fans before time finally ran out.

The victory, together with Kentucky's 72-68 loss to Georgia in Athens and Florida's 73-70 home defeat to LSU, puts USC one-half game behind Kentucky (7-3) in the SEC East Standings and 1-1/2 games in front of the struggling Gators.

Rolando Howell had his second double-double performance in a row, compiling 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Gamecocks in both categories.

Tre Kelley scored a career high 16 points, including 9-for-12 from the line. Mike Boynton had 15 points, all on 3-pointers.

Vanderbilt's Matt Freije, the SEC's third leading scorer, struggled for most of the night from the floor, hitting only five of 13 shots. He finished with 16 points, two less than his season average.

After struggling from the free throw line in its last two games (21-for-39 against Kentucky and Miss. State), USC tasted success from the stripe Saturday, hitting 20 of 25.

After USC had a 7-0 run to close out the first half, Brandon Wallace made his presence felt early in the second half with a tip-in and layup off an inbounds pass. His second basket gave USC a 52-37 lead with 18:11 left.

After a Vandy basket, the Gamecocks torched the Commodores for back-to-back 3-pointers by Gonner and Wallace for a 19-point USC lead (58-39).

The lead expanded to 21 (60-39) when Gonner followed up his own miss with a putback. After that, USC brought the crowd to its feet with a couple of intimidating blocks on the defensive end.

USC's offense then went stagnant for 3-1/2 minutes. Vandy didn't fare much better, though, hitting only four free throws in that span. USC led, 60-43, when the second media timeout of the second half was called with 11:57 left.

Vandy managed to cut the lead to 14 (60-46) on a 3-pointer before Boynton scored USC's first points in 4:30, draining a 3-pointer from the top of the circle.

Howell followed with a dunk off an inbounds play in front of the USC bench to push the lead to 19 (65-46) with 9:33 left.

Vandy knocked down a 3-pointer just before a timeout was called with 6:43 left to cut the lead to 16 (67-51).

The teams traded baskets (Howell hit a jumper and slammed home a pass from Kelley) to make it a 71-55 game when a 30-second timeout was called by Vandy with 3:37 left.

The advantage reached 19 (74-55) before Vandy made a late run to cut the lead to nine (78-69) on a 3-pointer with 47.5 seconds left. The Commodores used their final timeout at that point.

Tre Kelley made the back end of two free throws to make it a 10-point game (79-69). After another 3-pointer by Vandy, Kelley again made one of two free throws.

Gonner closed out matters by hitting two free throws with 14 seconds left.

The game did not begin on a good note for USC, especially Gonner, who threw up a brick and turned the ball over (traveling) on USC's first two possessions.

Conversely, Vandy hit a 3-pointer and had a back-door layup to take a 5-0 lead.

USC finally got on the board with a 3-pointer from the wing by Boynton, and then took a brief 6-5 lead when Boynton duplicated his feat from the other side.

Vandy led, 8-6, when the first media timeout was called with 15:53 left. It was the last time the Commodores would lead.

The Gamecocks came out of the timeout with fire its eyes. USC scored four quick points on a transition layup by Kinsey and a slam dunk by Howell off a miss by Gonner to take a 10-8 lead.

With the crowd roaring its approval, USC added six more points during a 10-0 run on consecutive 3-pointers by Boynton and Tre Kelley to take a 16-8 lead with 13:44 left.

USC led, 18-11, at the second media timeout with 11:41 left.

Kelley hit two free throws to jumpstart a 7-2 USC run after the timeout, as the Gamecocks increased its lead to 25-13 lead with 9:50 left. Howell had two offensive rebound baskets. On the second, he was fouled and made the free throw.

USC took its biggest lead at 16 points (32-16) on a conventional three-pint play by Carlos Powell with 8:12 left.

Vandy had a 5-0 run (3-pointer and two free throws) to slice the lead to 32-21, before Powell responded with a basket in which he lipped the ball toward the goal as he drove to the basket.

Vandy had cut the lead to 10 (37-27) when the fourth media timeout was called with 3:56 left. The Commodores scored the first basket after the stoppage to reduce the lead to eight before Gonner ended Vandy's 6-0 run with a short jumper.

Vandy got the lead down to seven (39-32) before USC scored the final seven points to end the first half on a strong note. Boynton started the surge with his third 3-pointer of the half.

Howell scored when he grabbed his fifth offensive rebound of the half and laid it in. Kelley brought the crowd to its feet when he hit an off-balance jumper from the foul line. The ball rolled around the rim and fell through as the buzzer sounded.

USC shot 48.5% (16-for-33) from the field in the first half. Vandy was 50.0% (11-for-22), but Freije was only two-for-seven from the floor with 7 points.

USC outrebounded Vandy, 19-12, in the first half, and battled the Commodores on almost even terms on the offensive glass. USC had eight offensive rebounds to Vandy's 10 defensive rebounds.

The clubs combined for 19 turnovers in the first half.

NOTES: USC's starters were Boynton, Gonner, Howell, Kinsey, and Wallace. . .Current SEC East Standings: Kentucky 7-3, USC 7-4, Florida 5-5, Vanderbilt 4-6, Tennessee 4-6, Georgia 4-7. . . With the win Saturday, Dave Odom became only the third coach in USC history to coach the Gamecocks to two 20-win seasons. . . USC is 18-15 all-time against Vanderbilt. . .The Gamecocks have won five in a row against Vanderbilt. USC's last loss to Vandy came during the 2001-2002 season. . .USC is 4-2 at home this season against SEC opponents, 13-2 overall. USC is 24-6 at the Colonial Center since it opened in November, 2002. . .USC became the second SEC team to record 20 victories. Mississippi State was the first. . .USC (20-for-25 FT) is 8-1 this season when it shoots better than 70% from the free throw line. . .USC outrebounded Vandy, 40-35. . .USC had eight blocks. . .USC is 14-1 this season and 35-5 in the Odom era when it scores 70+ points. . .Michael Boynton had a career high 5 3-pointers. . .Four USC players were perfect from the line. . .Carlos Powell (8 points) failed to score in double figures for the first time this season. . .Vandy head coach Kevin Stallings is in his fifth year with the Commodores. . .USC came into Saturday's game ranked No. 1 in five SEC categories: scoring defense (59. 5), field goal pct. defense (37.0%), 3-point goal pct. defense (26.1%), blocked shots (6.0 BPG), and turnover margin (+4.79 per game). Nationally, USC is No. 3 in field goal percentage defense.


USC HEAD COACH DAVE ODOM: "It was an excellent 35 minutes of basketball by our team. We had good defensive pressure. WE had a lot of togetherness. We caused a lot of fatigue by Vanderbilt. Offensively we did just enough to get by. Boynton's five threes were critical. They calmed the waters a little bit. We answered them all night. We had a tough Thursday and Friday. After the last two games, we had our minds do funny things. I'm proud of the way we came back. I'm proud of the effort. We changed the starting lineup. We needed to do that. Brandon Wallace gets a lot of credit. Rolando had his second double-double in a row. We had very good post play all night."

"The fans really responded to our pleas to establish a legacy in this arena. We want to make sure the legacy we leave behind is a good one, one that supports the Gamecocks and not jeering the other team."

VAN: 32-43=75
USC: 46-36=82

USC Top Scorer: Rolando Howell, 17 points.
VAN Top Scorer: Mario Moore, 19 points.
USC Top Rebounder: Howell, 12.
VAN Top Rebounder: Two with 4.
Halftime: USC 46-32.

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