USC Rallies For Big Win Over Vanderbilt

Things looked bleak for South Carolina early in the second half before a 16-0 run brightened the outlook considerably. USC used the run to rally from a double-digit deficit in the second half against Vanderbilt and pull out a 68-63 victory Wednesday at the Colonial Center. The win evened USC's conference record at 3-3 and improved its home record to 10-1 this season. It also kept USC's NCAA tournament hopes alive, as a home loss to the Commodores could have severely dented its chances.

Six minutes into the second half of Wednesday's pivotal SEC clash between South Carolina and Vanderbilt, it appeared the Gamecocks were on the verge of suffering a potentially lethal blow to its NCAA Tournament hopes.

But in a span of 8-1/2 minutes covering the middle portion of the second half, all of that changed. USC went on a 16-0 run to turn the game upside down, going from glum to gleeful in the process. The Gamecocks never trailed again and held off the Commodores in the final minutes to complete a key 68-63 victory before 11,610 delirious fans at the Colonial Center.

USC improved to 11-5 overall, 3-3 in the SEC, as the Gamecocks continued the win one, lose-one scenario of the past month. USC is 6-0 this season after a loss.

Vanderbilt, seemingly in control of the contest early in the second half before collapsing, suffered its fourth consecutive loss and fell to 11-8 overall, 2-4 in the SEC,

USC outscored Vanderbilt, 28-12, over the final 14 minutes to rally for the win in this important contest. The victory allowed USC to tie Tennessee for third place in the SEC East behind Kentucky (6-0) and Florida (4-1), and was the perfect setup for Saturday's showdown in Gainesville between the Gamecocks and Gators.

Renaldo Balkman and Tarence Kinsey led USC with 15 points apiece. Carlos Powell had nine points and 11 rebounds.

After scorching the nets for eight 3-pointers in the first half, Vandy went stone cold in the second, hitting only 34.5% (10-for-29) of its shots. The Commodores succumbed to USC's full-court and half-court defensive pressure.

USC outrebounded Vandy, 27-12, in the second half.

After a torrid first half, Vanderbilt picked up where they left off, hitting a 3-pointer and two jumpers in the opening 2:18 of the second half to take its biggest lead of the game at 43-32, and force USC into calling a timeout.

Carlos Powell gave USC life with a jumper to drop the Vandy advantage back to single digits (43-34). Gonner made a 3-pointer and suddenly the deficit was down to six.

But Vandy hit a pair of layups to regain a 10-point edge (47-37). Rocky Trice's three-point play (layup and free throw) cut the lead to seven.

After a pair of free throws by Vandy gave the Commodores an 11-point advantage (51-40), USC's offense awoke. John Chappell's free throw with 13:39 left jumpstarted an improbable, and game-turning, 16-0 run that turned the double-digit deficit into a five-point lead for USC.

Powell hit a 3-pointer and Balkman an offensive putback during the run, as the crowd roared with delight. It was only the beginning for the Gamecocks.

The noise level in the Colonial Center increased another level when Balkman took a pass at the top and swished a 3-pointer to make it 51-49 with 10:11 left.

The crowd became deafening when Brandon Wallace gave USC its first lead since 5-3 with a 3-pointer from the top. Kinsey added a jumper and Kelley a layup to give USC a 56-51 lead, completing one of the more incredible turnarounds seen in these parts in recent memory.

Vandy finally ended its long stretch of offensive futility with a 3-pointer but USC responded with baskets by Kinsey and Balkman to take a 60-54 lead with 4:22 left.

After a media timeout with 3:39 left, Balkman made two free throws to give USC an eight-point lead at 62-54.

Vanderbilt cut the lead to four (62-58) with a free throw and its third 3-pointer of the second half, calling a timeout with 2:23 left.

After a Vandy basket cut the lead to 62-60, USC caught a break when, after a missed trey by Gonner, the ball went out of bounds off the Commodores with 1:15 left.

Wallace was fouled on the inbounds play but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Balkman rose up and, while falling out of bounds, fired the ball off a Vandy player to allow USC to sustain possession.

USC worked the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock was nearly exhausted before Wallace found Powell underneath for a layup and a 64-60 lead.

Vanderbilt missed the front end of two 1-and-1's before a tie-up after the second miss gave USC possession. Rocky Trice was fouled on the inbounds play.

Trice gave USC fan a sense of comfort by hitting two free throws, giving USC a 66-60 lead. But it soon turned into unease as Vandy hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.

Tre Kelley was fouled on the inbounds play and made the second of two free throws to give USC a four-point edge (67-63) with 7.3 seconds left.

Vanderbilt attempted a full-court pass but the ball went out of bounds without being touched.

Gonner made the second of two free throws to give USC a 68-63 lead.

The contest was played at a frantic pace from the opening tip. After Kelley opened the scoring for USC with a free throw. He added a driving layup and Kinsey had a short jumper from the corner to give USC a 5-3 lead.

But, as has often been the case at home this season, the Gamecocks started to struggle on offense and fell behind. A pair of 3-pointers sparked an 8-0 run for Vanderbilt, as the Commodores took an 11-5 lead with 16:04 left.

A driving layup by Balkman just before the first media timeout was called with 15:12 left cut the lead to 11-7. Powell had a basket coming out of the timeout to make it 11-9.

USC tied the score at 13-13 when Balkman picked up a loose ball in the lane and scored. That was the score when the second media timeout was called with 11:31 left.

Vanderbilt drilled a pair of triples in the first minute of action following the timeout to take a 19-15 lead with 10:01 left. Gonner had a driving layup for USC during that stretch.

The Commodores sustained their white-hot shooting with a pair of medium range jumpers for a 23-15 lead. Although the third media timeout was imminent, USC head coach Dave Odom had no choice but to call a 30-second timeout with 8:10 left.

Vanderbilt outscored USC, 10-2, during the 3:43 period extending from the second media timeout (11:31) to the third media timeout (7:48) to grab the 23-15 lead.

Kinsey drained a 3-pointer from the top for USC's first field goal in a span of nearly five minutes to cut Vandy's lead to 25-20. But the Commodores responded with a trey of its own, and led, 28-20, when the fourth media timeout was called with 3:48 left.

USC fell behind by double digits (30-20) for the first time when Vandy hit a driving layup on its first possession after the last media timeout.

Gonner brought the crowd to life with a 3-pointer from the corner to narrow the Vandy lead to 30-23 with 2:56 left. Balkman was fouled following up a USC miss and hit both free throws to cut the lead further, 30-25.

But Vandy's seventh 3-pointer of the first half restored an eight-point edge. The clubs then traded triples (Rocky Trice swishing a long-range shot for USC) as Vandy grabbed a 36-28 lead with 38 seconds left.

Kinsey drilled a jumper from the top in the closing moments of the first half as USC trailed 36-30 at halftime.

Vanderbilt made eight of 21 3-pointers in the first half. More than two-thirds of Vandy's field goal attempts in the first half came from behind the 3-pointar (21 of 30).

Conversely, USC made three of six 3-pointers, and shot 44.0% (11-for-25) in the first half.

VAN: 36-27=63

USC: 30-38=68

USC Leading Scorer: Balkman, Kinsey, 15 points.

VAN Leading Scorer: Shan Foster, 19 points.

USC Leading Rebounder: Carlos Powell, 11.

VAN Leading Rebounder: Jason Holwerda, 8.

Halftime: Vanderbilt, 36-30.

Next Game: Sat. 1/29 at Florida (1:00 p.m.) Next Home Game: Wed. 2/2 v. Arkansas (7:30 p.m.)

NOTES: USC's starting lineup – F Carlos Powell, F Brandon Wallace, F Renaldo Balkman, G Tre Kelley, G Tarence Kinsey. . . USC now leads the all-time series against Vanderbilt, 20-15. USC is 11-5 in Columbia against Vandy. . .It was the sixth straight win over VU. . .USC came into the game 5-0 following a loss. . . John Chappell played only 13 minutes but made a key contribution with two offensive rebounds. . .USC saw its streak of seven straight games of hitting at least 50.0% of its shots come to an end. USC made 44.4% (24-for-54) of its shots Wednesday. . .USC outrebounded Vandy, 42-28. . .The important difference between USC and the top three teams in the SEC East, conference records-wise, is the ability to win on the road. The top three clubs (Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee) are a combined 7-1 on the road. USC is 0-3 in opposing SEC arenas and 0-5 on the road overall. . .Tre Kelley matched his career high with 22 points in the loss at Mississippi State Saturday. It was the second time this season the sophomore point guard has scored 22 points. . . Carlos Powell came into Wednesday's game leading USC in points (15.5 PPG) and rebounds (6.2 RPG). Powell is 11th in the SEC in scoring and 8th in rebounding. . .Wednesday's game was shown on JP Sports, with Tom Hammond (play by play) and Larry Conley (color) handling the broadcast. . .Last season Vanderbilt qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997 and advanced as far as the Sweet Sixteen before losing.

QUOTES:

USC HEAD COACH DAVE ODOM: "We had a very emotional locker room before the game. You could tell our team wanted to play and wanted to win. But our team is not good when it encounters adversity early. We didn't expect to give up those threes early. Vanderbilt went to school on us. For lack of a better term, we tanked in the first half. We expect things to go perfectly when we have a game plan and most of the time they don't."

"We were fighting ourselves in the first half. At halftime we seemed to calm down. We called a timeout there early in the second half. All of a sudden Vandy looked up and they hadn't knocked us out. Then the crowd got into it and things started going our way."

"It was a great win for us. I was proud of the way we hung in and stayed together. I give John Chappell a lot of credit just for his presence in the middle that he gave us."

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