Byars leads Vanderbilt past USC, 78-68

NASHVILLE-- Derrick Byars scored a career high 32 points as Vanderbilt topped South Carolina, 78-68. Vanderbilt rebounded from a disappointing 84-57 loss at Tennessee on Saturday and moved into a tie for second place in the SEC East with Kentucky. The Commodores now await a visit from the #1 Florida Gators on Saturday.

Byars was on fire early in the first half, making 3 of 3 3-point shots and scoring 19 points. South Carolina jumped out to an early 6-0 lead behind 3 field goals by Dominique Archie. Dan Cage's 3 with 8:43 remaining in the half cut the Gamecock lead to 19-18. Cage made 3 of 8 three pointers during the game, including 2 in the first half.

Alex Gordon's 3-pointer tied the game at 21 with 7:40 remaining in the half. A Byars' field goal with 7:08 left gave Vanderbilt its first lead of the game at 26-24. Vanderbilt went on to lead by as much as 7 in the first half before finally exiting the court with a 37-35 halftime lead.

A Byars 3-pointer extended Vanderbilt's lead to 46-37 with 17:10 remaining. However, South Carolina would not go down easy. The scrappy Gamecocks tied the game at 55 on an Archie field goal with 9:25 remaining. Brandon Wallace's basket gave the visitors the lead back at 57-55 with 9:00 remaining. The red hot Byars would have none of that. Byars' three-pointer with 7:45 remaining gave Vanderbilt the lead for good at 58-56. The Commodores then built a 7-point cushion with 4:00 remaining and never looked back.

Byars previous single game scoring high was 28 points against Toledo earlier in the season. Byars finished with 11 of 15 from field goal range, 4 of 7 from 3-point range and 6 of 8 from the free throw line. In the post game news conference a happy Byars commented that after the debacle at Tennessee he had never been more ready to play a game than against South Carolina.

Gordon finished with 14 points, which included 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range. Foster added 14 points, most of those were scored in the second half when Foster was relieved of the assignment of guarding Tre Kelley. Cage added 14.

Kelley led South Carolina with 21 points and Bryce Sheldon added 18. Archie finished with 15.

A pleased Commodore head coach Kevin Stallings praised his team's performance after the game, "I'm really proud of our team and I thought our fight particularly in the second half and down the stretch was in high gear. We really made plays during the stretch there to win the game. Red made some big shots, Shan made some big plays ... Derrick was incredible, that was an incredible performance. I was just really happy with how hard our team fought," said Stallings.

Vanderbilt improves to 17-8 (7-4 SEC). South Carolina falls to 12-12 (2-9 SEC). The Gamecocks host Tennessee on Saturday.

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