South Carolina women's basketball fell 66-56 to No. 17/18 Vanderbilt this afternoon at Colonial Life Arena, despite a career-high 19 points from senior C.J. Pace. The Gamecocks (9-10, 1-5 SEC) played the Commodores even in the second half, but could not overcome a 10-point halftime deficit. Carolina out-rebounded Vanderbilt 40-28, including 14 offensive boards as Pace fell one rebound shy of her second double-double of the season.
The game got off to an emotional start for the Gamecocks with a moment of silence to recognize the passing of Kay Yow and with sophomore Jewel May wearing the No. 24 jersey in honor of senior Demetress Adams, who had her career cut short by a knee injury suffered at Ole Miss on Thursday. On the other hand, Vanderbilt came out shooting and stormed to a 14-point lead just eight minutes into the game.
Samone Kennedy stopped a 12-0 Vanderbilt run with a driving layup, and Pace drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to narrow the gap to nine at 20-11. Merideth Marsh hit a bucket to push the margin back to double-digits, but Carolina's Brionna Dickerson suffered a right knee sprain in the ensuing melee under the basket. She would not return to the game and will be re-evaluated early this week to determine the extent of the injury.
The Gamecocks were emotional yet again, but responded in much the way they had when Adams left the Ole Miss game just three days ago. May hit a bucket from the right block then swiped a steal on the other end to set up Pace's second 3-pointer from the top of the key. Lakeisha Sutton took a charge on the Commodores' next possession, and Kennedy hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to pull the Gamecocks within 18-22 with nine minutes left to play.
Following a media timeout, Vanderbilt got back on track, stringing together nine straight points, aided by four Carolina turnovers, over a five-minute span to get the lead back to 13 points. Pace ended the spurt with a long jump shot, which also keyed a 6-0 surge for the Gamecocks. Lauren Falohun hit a driving layup, and Charenee Stephens scored from the right block to pull within seven.
After leading by 10 at the half, Vanderbilt saw the Gamecocks continue to battle back. Christine Wirth put the Commodores up 40-29 with a mid-range jumper at the 15:14 mark but were then held scoreless over the next two minutes. Miranda Tate came off the bench to score the first three points of a 5-0 run, and Sutton added a layup make it a six-point game with 13:19 left to play. Vanderbilt answered with an 8-0 run by controlling the boards. With the margin back to 14 points at 48-34, the teams essentially traded baskets throughout the final 10:52.
Pace's 19 points led all scorers and her nine rebounds, which included five offensive boards, tied Tate for game-high honors. Sutton finished with nine points for the Gamecocks as well. Marsh led the Commodores with 15 points, while Wirth and Jennifer Risper added 14 and 13, respectively.
South Carolina continues its homestand on Thu., Jan. 29, with a 7 p.m. game against LSU.
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