Three in a Row!

The old adage says that basketball is a game of runs. Anybody who wants to prove that to be the case could use Wednesday night's game between Carolina (15-4, 4-2 SEC) and Vanderbilt (12-8, 1-5 SEC) as Exhibit A. The Gamecocks used a 14-0 run to take a 12 point lead at halftime. Vanderbilt answered with a 16-3 run to retake the lead, and then Carolina used a 22-7 run to seal an 86-76 win.

Vanderbilt led 13-12 in the first half when South Carolina went on a 14-0 run. The run was built on the Gamecocks' pressure defense. Vanderbilt turned the ball over 15 times in the half, leading to 18 Carolina points. The turnovers kept Vanderbilt out of their 1-2-2 zone, which gave the Gamecocks trouble.

The Commodores had no intention of packing it in at halftime. Vanderbilt opened the half on a 16-3 run to retake the lead 46-45. The recipe was simple: no turnovers meant no easy baskets for the Gamecocks. During the run, Vanderbilt had just three turnovers, and only the last mistake led to a score on the other end.

"I'm really proud of our team tonight," said Darrin Horn. "I think our guys took a step [forward]. Anytime you can go six minutes in the second half and still win the game, I'm impressed with our guys."

Freshman Jeffrey Taylor was the key to Vanderbilt's run. Taylor entered the game averaging 12.1 points per game, but surpassed that in the first half on his way to a career-high 23 points along with seven rebounds.

"He's awfully talented and we think he's got a chance to be a very good player for us," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "The greatest thing about him is he's so easy to coach and he's a great kid and teammate."

The Gamecocks have a baller of their own, and Devan Downey made sure Carolina got the last run. He scored six quick points and dished an assist to Sam Muldrow to spur an 11-0 Gamecock run. That run quickly ballooned into a 22-7 run, and the game was in hand, allowing Carolina to snap a five game losing streak to Vanderbilt.

"Downey was sensational in the second half," Stallings said. "That's why he's such a great player. He's capable of taking over the game, and he took this game over in the second half."

"My team needed me. We had went down one [point], and my team needed me," said Downey, who scored a team-high 18 points. "Our style of play is designed to wear you down. Teams are going to make a run, but they're guys were grabbing their shorts and were winded, so I knew we were about to make a run."

Vanderbilt's chance to make a final run was hampered by foul trouble. The referees may have been the real stars of the game. They called 56 fouls, and Vanderbilt and Carolina shot 21-31 and 32-49 from the free throw line, respectively. That includes some late game intentional fouling late in the game, but the Commodores were still hurt more by the fouls than Carolina. Taylor fouled out with 4:09 to play, and centers Festus Ezeli and A.J. Ogilvy also fouled out. Ogilvy, the Commodores' leading scorer and rebounder, had just 3 points in 21 minutes, although he pulled down 11 rebounds. Ogilvy has been hampered by a sore heel and respiratory infection that took him out of the starting lineup and noticeably sapped his energy. He was winded after just a few trips down court, and all his shots missed short.

"I probably shouldn't even been playing him right now," said Stallings. "He's been very sick. […] He did a great job rebounding in the first half, but he never really got going offensively."

For the game, Vanderbilt had 22 turnovers to Carolina's 10. Vanderbilt outrebounded the Gamecocks 41-29, including 16 offensive boards, to stay in the game. Besides Taylor, Vanderbilt was led by George Drake (18 points), Brad Tinsley (15), and Jermaine Beal (13). In addition to Downey, Carolina was led by Dominique Archie (17 points), Brandis Raley-Ross (12), and Zam Fredrick (11). Mike Holmes (9 points) and Sam Muldrow (8 points) led the Gamecocks with seven rebounds apiece.

Notes:

- Carolina has now won three straight regular season SEC games. That has not happened since 2006. That year, the Gamecocks also won the season finale and then three straight in the SEC Tournament for a four game winning streak.
- The 49 free throws attempted by Carolina are the most by an SEC team this year, and most ever at Colonial Life Arena.
- The 4-2 conference start is the best since 5-1 in 2004, the last time USC made the NCAA Tournament.
- By winning 15 games, Carolina has surpassed its win total of the previous two seasons.
- Attendance was down slightly from the last two games, but 12,766 showed up.

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