Nightmare in Nashville: USC Loses Ugly 96-83

Darrin Horn and his Gamecocks must feel like Dorothy tonight – "There's no place like home, there's no place like home…" Undefeated in the SEC at home and coming off a huge victory over Kentucky, USC went to Nashville and were given a dose of the same medicine they gave Kentucky three days earlier. The Dores came out playing full court USC style aggressive play, and turned the tables on USC 96-83.

It was a case of reverse déjà vu Saturday night. On Wednesday night, the home team aggressively took the game to a 1st place SEC opponent on both ends of the court, took an early lead and never looked back, leading most of the game by around 20 points. Saturday was the same story. The difference for the South Carolina Gamecocks, they were the ones who were the aggressors on Wednesday, but on Saturday the Vanderbilt Commodores took a page out of the Gamecock's playbook and gave them a taste of their own medicine in a game the Gamecocks were never really in.

USC Head Coach Darrin Horn said, "Vanderbilt gets all the credit. They were incredible. They came out big offensively and defensively. We couldn't get any stops. They pressured well. They played extremely well." Horn's style of play focuses on defensive pressure, and he talked about his team's lack of defense against the Commodores: "Defensively we didn't come out and take them out of anything. It built their confidence. We needed to play well tonight. We're on the road; they're a young team, but a good team. We needed to capitalize on that and we couldn't. Our troubles snowballed from the beginning."

South Carolina came into the game in sole possession of first place in the SEC East and in control of their own destiny. After having their heads handed to them by the Commodores Saturday night in Nashville, they must wait for the outcome of Sunday's game between Florida and Tennessee to see which team they will now be tied with for first. If Tennessee wins, USC regains control of their own destiny, as they host the Volunteers on a nationally televised game on Thursday night. If Florida wins Sunday, it is more complicated, with the two teams having split their regular season matchups.

Devan Downey has led USC to everything they have achieved by setting the tone for the team on both offense and defense with is aggressive style of play. He acknowledged his team's lack in that area tonight after the game, when he said, "We didn't set the tone on defense tonight and that led to our bad start." Downey was well aware of the consequences of Saturday's loss on his team's standings in the Sec East race. ""If we were able to win tonight, they're would have been no worries," he said. Talking about the Tennessee vs. Florida game, he said, "We'll be watching the game tomorrow."

Australia native A.J. Ogilvy was the thunder down under (the basket), outside the three point line, and in the lane tonight. In short, it seemed he was everywhere, and he scored a career high 28 points. Downey said of Ogilvy, "We gave him some easy looks tonight. He was able to hit all of his shots from inside and even midrange jumpers. We should have done a better job defensively tonight."

The Commodores also got double figures from Jermaine Beal with 27, Jeffery Taylor with 17 and Brad Tinsley with 16.

Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings was clearly happier with his team and their effort tonight then he was in the Dores last game when they were beaten by last place Georgia, saying, "That was a little better. I'm really proud of our team. I'm really proud of our crowd. You could tell there was an energy that didn't have to be there with the students gone and us losing to the last place team in our division.

I'm proud that our crowd didn't give up on us. I thought we got great play from A.J. Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal. In the first half, I thought we did a good job defensively. In the second half, we were content to score with them. I thought our defense on Downey was very good. He had 24 points, but it took him a lot of shots to get there."

The Gamecocks were hit with two technical fouls in the game, with the first one on center Mike Holmes leading to a seven point possession by Vandy. It started with a layup by Ogilvy. After the basket, Holmes was called for a dead ball technical foul. Beal knocked down both free throws and Brad Tinsley hit a three of the inbounds play from the technical foul.

After that, the Gamecocks cut the lead to 9-6, but the Dores would go on a 12-4 run that was started by 9 points from Ogilvy. That run gave the Dores a 28-13 lead with 9:44 left in the first half. Vandy closed the first half on a 10-5 run to take a 47-27 lead into the intermission. The Commodores shot 15 of 24 (63%) from the field in the first half and made 11 of their 13 free throws. They held Downey to just 2 for 9 from the field in the opening half.

The Commodores kept their 20 point lead most of the second half, content to trade baskets with the Gamecocks, much like USC did with Kentucky on Wednesday. The second half turned into a bit of a track meet with SC scoring 56 points and the Dores scoring 49 points. The Gamecocks would go on a 13-2 run late in the second half to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 14 at 83-69, but Vandy would hit their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.

Ogilvy talked about taking on the role of the aggressors tonight, saying, "Before the game, Coach talked about how we had to be the aggressor and make sure we threw the first punch and keep throwing punches after that. We did a good job of that and kept them from scoring a lot of points in the first half and managed to put some points on the board at the same time."

Senior Zam Fredrick continued his hot pace on offense tonight with 21 points, but his focus after the game was on the team's loss. He said, "We gave away too many free shots tonight and allowed Vandy to get into an offensive flow. They made good plays and were able to get comfortable tonight."

Fredrick was complimentary of his opponent Ogilvy, saying, "He played well tonight. He took advantage of his opportunities." He also commented on the SEC East race and Sunday's Tennessee vs. Florida game: "If we took care of business tonight, we wouldn't have to worry as much about that game. We're going to treat every game as a must-win and we're going to play our game with no pressure. We're college basketball fans so we will be watching that game tomorrow."

In addition to the 24 from Downey and 21 from Fredrick, Carolina got 15 from Brandis Raley-Ross, and 12 from Mike Holmes.

The Gamecocks have two games left in the regular season and the SEC race, with the game at home against Tennessee on Thursday at 7 pm, before going on the road to Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs in the season finale. SEC Tournament play begins the next week. If the Gamecocks want to win the SEC East and obtain a first round bye in the conference tournament, they need to take care of business in their last two games.

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