Vandy Drops USC on last second shot 66-65

The Gamecocks lost a thriller to Vanderbilt Saturday evening, 66-65. The teams capped off a back and forth game with a pair of spectacular individual plays that sent the Commodores back to Nashville happy.

With Vanderbilt leading 64-63, A.J. Ogilvy missed the front end of a one-and-one. Devon Downey pushed the ball up court and soared under the rim for a reverse layup. After a timeout, Jermaine Beal took the inbounds pass and dribbled up court. Nobody from Carolina stepped in to defend him until he was at the rim, and the layup was good with 0.6 seconds left. It was the 13th lead change of the game, and Beal's only field goal, half of his 4 points. Odom refused to confirm who missed the assignment, but blame likely rests with Zam Fredrick.

"It was an off-balance throw," he said. "I wouldn't call it a shot, but give him credit. You don't want a player that deep, because those shots are easier to make. You've got to meet him before half-court, and we didn't."

"Downey [made] an incredible shot to put them up one," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "[The plan] was Beal until they stopped him. As Jermaine started coming up the floor, two of there guys both started running to Alex Gordon. They both started to run back, and by that time there was enough confusion there that Jermaine took advantage of the moment."

The ending capped off a back and forth game. Both halves started off slowly, with Vanderbilt eventually able to build a small lead. The Gamecocks answered with a 10-3 run in the first half to take the lead shortly before half. The Commodores got the last shot then to lead 33-32. In the second half, Carolina similarly used a 9-2 run to take the lead. Vanderbilt battled back and had a chance to ice the game, but Ogilvy, who is normally an 80% free throw shooter, missed five free throws down the stretch. Once again, though, Vanderbilt got the last shot.

"They made one more big play than did we," Odom said. "Their biggest play came at the biggest moment in the game. Perhaps our biggest fault was we gave them too much time to answer."

The Gamecocks were led by some unlikely sources. Evka Baniulis scored a season-high 19 points to lead Carolina. Dwayne Day added a career-high 9 rebounds, surpassing his previous career-high of 8, set earlier this season against Tennessee. In addition, Mike Holmes came off the bench with 6 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes. It was his most playing time since the Tennessee game, and the first time he made a field goal since the last Vanderbilt game (he made one free throw against Tennessee).

"Mike Holmes played extremely well today; I was proud of him," said Odom. "He played well in practice, and he merited a chance. If he plays like that he'll get some more. Evka had one of his best games offensively. I think he is a little more of a factor on defense."

The output from the supporting cast was important given that Downey suffered a mild concussion in practice Friday when hit in the head by an elbow from Chad Gray. Downey said he felt no lingering effects, but he had an uneven game with just 10 points on 4-13 shooting, but 7 assists and no turnovers. All 10 points came in the second half, leading Odom to suggest that Downey may have been more cautious early in the game as he felt his way back.

"My guess is, he was tentative in the first half," Odom said. "At halftime I asked him if he was okay, and he said, ‘Coach, I know I didn't play good, but I'm going to play good in the second half.' I think he played great down the stretch."

Game Notes:

- Vanderbilt's win tied the all-time series between the two teams at 21.

- Baniulis was 5-5 from behind the arc, after going3-5 against Ole Miss.

- Vanderbilt had more rebounds (35-29), more assists (18-13), better shooting percentage (46.4%-45.5%)more points in the paint (30-24), and more second chance points (12-4), yet won by only one point. "We missed 5 free throws," Stallings offered to explain the statistical disparity.

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