VU downs USC 74-60 in OT; earns #3 seed

Vanderbilt earns a No. 3 seed and a bye in the March 3-6 Southeastern Conference Tournament the tough way – with a gutsy come-from-behind 74-60 overtime win at South Carolina (16-13, 8-8). Trailing for more than 36 minutes in regulation, the ‘Dores fought to earn that extra day of rest with big play from Elan Brown, Stephanie Holzer and hurting senior leader Jence Rhoads.

"When Elan hit the three, I just saw relief on our players and Jence relaxed," said Head Coach Melanie Balcomb.

Jence hit her only two points in regulation with 43 seconds left on a put back, rebounding her own missed shot to tie the score at 56. Elan's bomb and Vandy's run in overtime, steered by Jence's drives for 13 points, buried South Carolina's confidence. Holzer's jumpers, a blocked shot and free throws by Gabby Smith, Jence, and Angela Puleo sealed the win. USC led by as many as 10 points on two occasions, but Vanderbilt battled back to tie at 15, 28, 30, 34, 36, 52 and 56.

"This was something new," the coach said, saying she didn't see the rally coming. "I didn't know if we had it in ourselves; we didn't do this before. This was really positive. We really had out backs against the wall and you saw the best of us come out."

Rhoads played 43 minutes on an ankle that is not 100 percent; more than anyone, she is likely grateful for the SECT bye. The senior point guard injured her right ankle at Mississippi State and again in practice the day before the Kentucky loss. After playing two games in three days, the ‘Dores will play the 9 p.m. nightcap this Friday in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena against the winner of the No. 6/11 first-round match.

The seeding was boosted by Florida's home upset over Georgia and Kentucky's escape from Auburn.

In the final 19 seconds of regulation, USC's La ‘Keisha Sutton, the Gamecocks leading scorer with 20, stepped out of bounds, giving Vandy the final shot. Rhoads whittled the clock down to four seconds and handed off to Gabby Smith whose shot hit the side of the rim after she was jostled and no whistle blown.

Vanderbilt outscored South Carolina 36-12 in the last 12:48, including overtime.

Two ‘Dores fouled out: Jasmine Lister and Tiffany Clarke, who has recorded exceptional numbers this SEC season, fouled out on a technical after slamming a ball to the floor in frustration.

Stephanie Holzer played 29 minutes, staying out of foul trouble. "She didn't want to come out of the game," Balcomb said. "She said she could defend the three and rebound. She was playing with confidence and I wasn't going to take that away."

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