On Sunday afternoon, the Commodores ran into a road block.
Facing a South Carolina team that used its size and aggressiveness to block eight shots and limit Vanderbilt to a season-low 37 percent shooting from the floor, the No. 16/19 Commodores lost a nail-biter in Nashville, suffering a 61-57 loss to the No. 10/11 Gamecocks.
Tiffany Mitchell scored a team-high 14 points for South Carolina (18-2, 6-1), including two pivotal baskets in the final 50 seconds to break open a tie game and help the Gamecocks down Vanderbilt (16-4, 5-2) for the second time this season.
"South Carolina did a great job," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "They stayed disciplined on our personnel for 40 minutes and I don't think we did that as well as them."
The loss ended the Commodores' four-game SEC winning streak and their eight-game home winning streak that dated back to a loss to Marquette on Nov. 17.
"It's definitely a frustrating loss," said senior guard Christina Foggie, who finished with a team-high 20 points for Vanderbilt, "but we still had a lot of positives in the game. We played pretty tough for the whole game. So we will watch the film and keep moving on to the next game."
Jasmine Jenkins finished with eight points and seven rebounds for Vanderbilt, which committed just 10 turnovers while forcing South Carolina into 24.
The Commodores came into the day with hopes of continuing their trend of special Sundays. They knocked off LSU at home last Sunday, and beat Tennessee seven days before that. But South Carolina's defense prevented Vanderbilt from adding another upset to the list.
The Commodores entered the day as the SEC leaders in field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, but finished just 1-of-5 from 3-point range and were 22-of-59 from the floor overall.
South Carolina -- which leads the SEC in blocked shots and ranks second in 3-point defense -- held Jasmine Lister to a season-low four points. She came into the game averaging 16.8 points per game, and was averaging a team-high 20.7 points per game in conference play.
"I thought they did a great job trailing Jas, sticking with her and not giving her enough open looks," said head coach Melanie Balcomb."They really used their size advantage to take her out of being able to make those big plays (that she usually makes)."
Vanderbilt also struggled from the foul line, going 12-of-19 (63.2), which is well below the Commodores' 77 percent season average. But despite all the cold shooting, Vanderbilt was in position to possible pull off the win. Battling back from a six-point deficit, the Commodores tied the game at 55-55 on a pair of free throws by Marqu'es Webb with 1:20 to play.
Then Mitchell went to work.
With the shot clocking winding down, she hit a twisting layup to give the Gamecocks a 57-55 lead with 50 seconds left. On Vanderbilt's ensuing possession, Mitchell came up with a pivotal steal that she converted into a layup to put South Carolina ahead, 59-55 with 32 seconds left and the Gamecocks held on from there.
"We definitely believe we were in a really good spot -- tied with less than a minute left," said Foggie. "We talked about how we need to dig down and play smarter in that last possession where we left an open layup. That's just where we need to get better as a team."
Vanderbilt visits Missouri on Thursday night.