Commodores Down USC In Overtime Thriller
The game featured two of the leading SEC Player of the Year candidates in Carolina's Tre Kelley and Vanderbilt's Derrick Byars. In the previous matchup between the two teams, Kelley and Byars battled it out, with Byars and the Commodores coming out on top, 78-68. Kelley paced the Gamecocks with 21 points while Byars torched USC for 32 points and 8 rebounds. This time, Kelley got the better of Byars, but the end result was still a Carolina loss.
Both teams were on fire early, shooting three-pointers like they were layups. The Gamecocks led 25-23 with just over seven minutes to play in the first half when Vanderbilt made the first run of the game. The Commodores made 6 of 7 threes the rest of the half to key a 24-10 run. Shan Foster was the key player for Vanderbilt, scoring 16 first half points and making four of seven three point attempts.
Leading 47-35 at the half, the Commodores controlled the first five minutes of the second half and appeared to be on the verge of putting the Gamecocks away. Vanderbilt led by as many as 17 before Kelley brought Carolina back. Dominique Archie, who scored a career-high 21 points, hit a three pointer from the top of key to start a 13-2 run that pulled Carolina to within 4 at 59-55.
From that point on, it seemed as though Kelley and Foster were engaged in a personal duel to see which team would come out on top. With just under five minutes to play, Kelley found Archie open for three to tie the game at 69. Foster answered with a pair of free throws, and then Kelley drove to the basket and passed off to Dwayne Day for a dunk. Kelley then hit a pair of free throws with 3:40 left to give the Gamecocks their first lead since the 7:21 mark of the first half. Kelley scored the next 4 points of the game, and for a moment it appeared the Commodores had run out of steam.
Byars drew a foul, and went to the line for a pair of free throws. He made the first, but missed the second. However, Vanderbilt was able to secure the rebound and drill an open three for a four point possession that re-tied the game. "[Carolina] got some measure of control late," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said following the game. "I thought that [play] was very significant."
Tied again at 81, the Gamecocks had the ball with a chance for the final shot. Vanderbilt played excellent defense to force Kelley to give up the ball, but left Brandis Raley-Ross open in the process. Raley-Ross had an open 20 footer, but made a freshman mistake and tried to dribble in for a closer shot. The buzzer sounded before he was able to release an 18 foot jumper. "I would have liked to have seen [Raley-Ross] take the clean opening that he had," Coach Dave Odom said. "He just lost track of time and took the dribble, and the shot obviously was after the buzzer. But that's spilt milk, and nothing you can do about it."
Byars, who had been fairly quiet during regulation, took over the overtime period. He sandwiched a pair of three pointers around a Kelley free throw to give the Commodores a quick 5 point lead that they would never give up. Kelley and Foster continued to light up the scoreboard, as Foster finished with a game high 33 points, while Kelley had 32.
As the clock ticked down, Kelley received a standing ovation from the Gamecock faithful. He was the last player to leave the court. As he walked off Kelley saluted the fans, who serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P!" as he entered the tunnel for the final time.
Player of the Game: Tre Kelley. Shan Foster (33 points) and Derrick Byars (18 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists) had outstanding games for the Commodores, but once again Kelley was virtually a one man show for the Gamecocks. He scored over 30 points for the second time in his career, and for the first time at home, as he continued to climb up the career charts. In addition to his 32 points, he had 8 assists, accounting for another 21 points. With Brandon Wallace only able to play 29 minutes due to foul trouble, Carolina basically ran one play in the second half: clear out and let Tre create. "Tre Kelley is a great player," Stallings said. "We had a hard time guarding him."
Key Moment: The Gamecocks came all the way back from a 17 point deficit to lead by four with less than two minutes to play. Vanderbilt managed to even the score with a four point play. After Byars made the first free throw, he missed the second, but the rebound was tapped out for a three point shot to tie the score and ultimately send the game to overtime.
- Both teams scored a season high in points. Vanderbilt's previous high was 98, also in overtime, against Toledo. Carolina's previous high was 89, against Kentucky. The combined total of 189 points is the most ever scored at the Colonial Center. Vanderbilt also set a record for most points scored by a men's team at the Colonial Center.
- Brandon Wallace played in his 133rd career game on Wednesday night, a Carolina record.
- Tre Kelley now has 500 assists in his career, good for 3rd all time at Carolina. He also moved into 9th all time in scoring, passing Jo Jo English, Terry Dozier and Grady Wallace on the night. He is tied for second all time in games played.
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