Vanderbilt erased a 10-point deficit with eight minutes remaining thanks to a scintillating 30-10 run that kept hopes alive of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. The Commodores conquered South Carolina 75-65 Wednesday, and now Saturday's game at LSU will have serious Bubble consequences.
Mario Moore led the way with 22 points and Smith had 13 points on Senior Night, but it was freshman DeMarre Carroll who was in the middle of the game-deciding run. Carroll scored 10 of his 12 points in the final six minutes and grabbed several key rebounds as a loud Memorial roared its approval.
"I thought his activity on the boards and his energy level was very important in the win tonight," VU coach Kevin Stallings said. "One of the best things about DeMarre is he takes coaching. It doesn't bother him. He plays with so much effort and energy. He doesn't seem to stop and won't be denied."
Vanderbilt would not be denied on this night, either, despite shooting just 4 of 22 from three-point land (18 percent) and trailing for much of the night. But the Dores committed a season-low four turnovers, with Moore committing none in 33 minutes.
"To accomplish what he did against this team, the quickest team in our conference, is a big feat," Stallings said of his point guard.
Moore started the rally with a three-pointer, then added a free throw later to cut the lead to 55-49. Smith hit a layup, Carroll had an offensive putback and Smith hit another layup to tie the score 55-55.
Moore broke the tie with a short shot in the lane, capping a 12-0 run and giving VU a 57-55 lead with 3:58 left. Renaldo Balkman (16 rebounds) tied the game again with a dunk, but Carroll's three-point play gave Vanderbilt the lead for good at 60-57. South Carolina had just three field goals in the game's final eight minutes and could not match Vanderbilt's intensity in crunch time.
"You can only take so much from a team," Moore said. "They came into our house, got rebounds, and got physical. We had to get physical and then get locked in on winning the game."
Vanderbilt had lost to South Carolina five straight times at Memorial Gym, an amazing stat given the Gamecocks had gone 7-35 at all other SEC road venues during that same time span. But on this night, Stallings finally KO'd the Cocks at home.
"That team has been real tough on us, a very difficult team for us to beat," Stallings said. "I told the seniors not to feel bad that it has taken them four years (to beat South Carolina at home). It took me six years."
"We lost control of the boards around the 8:00 minute mark," said South Carolina coach Dave Odom. "We ran out of bodies at the end. I thought we tood good shots, but we found it difficult to get the ball inside and get shots off."
What every Commodore is now focused on is winning at LSU (Saturday, 3 p.m., Jefferson-Pilot TV) and getting in position to challenge for another NCAA berth.
"It's a great feeling to get the win on senior night," Smith said. "I hit a few milestones in my career tonight, but now we have to put it behind us and get ready for LSU."
Seniors Dawid Przybyszewki, Jason Holwerda and Corey Smith pose during pregame festivities.(VU/ Neil Brake)