Women's Hoops: Gamecocks down Vandy in empty gym

The usually hot-shooting Commodores were as chilly as the weather on Thursday night as they fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks, 66-57, on a snowy evening in Memorial Gym.

Ironically, on the Commodores' trip to Columbia last year, South Carolina was gripped in a record-setting ice storm when the Gamecocks upset the Commodores 71-52. The Commodores' attempt to return the favor unfortunately was successful only in matching spectacular wintry weather, while falling short of avenging last year's loss.

The timing of the snowstorm was particularly unfortunately for the Commodores. On Fan Appreciation Day on January 4, the Vanderbilt invited the crowd of 9,000+ to trade in their ticket stubs from that game for admission for tonight's game. The hopes for a great crowd were dashed, however, when over seven inches of snow fell in the Nashville area. Only 397 fans braved the extremely hazardous driving conditions to attend the game.

And the fans weren't the only ones who had trouble getting to the game. Two of the game officials arrived only minutes before the start of the game, and the third official didn't arrived until the second half.

The first half was close from start to finish. Neither team could muster more than a 4-point lead, and the half featured seven lead changes and eight ties. Neither team shot well in the half, with the Commodores shooting 38% and the Gamecocks shooting 36%. When the teams headed for the locker room at halftime, Vanderbilt held a slim 29-27 lead.

A basket by Chantelle Anderson gave the Commodores a 4-point lead to start the second half, but, as had been the case all night, Vanderbilt couldn't come up with the defensive stops that would have made it possible to build the lead. Once again, the lead went back and forth, back and forth.

A 3-pointer by Abi Ramsey with eight minutes left gave the Commodores their last lead of the night at 45-43. Vanderbilt managed a tie at 53-53 with about three minutes left. But then Jocelynn Penn, the national scoring leader in D1 women's basketball, and Kelly Morrone took over the game.

In those final three minutes, Penn scored nine points and had two critical steals, and Morrone was a perfect 4 for 4 from the line when Vanderbilt was forced to foul to gain possession of the ball. In the meantime, thanks to turnovers and missed shots, the Commodores could manage only two baskets from Chantelle Anderson, allowed the Gamecocks to claim the 66-57 victory.

Vanderbilt was lead in scoring by Chantelle Anderson with 20 points, followed by Ashley McElhiney with 11. Hillary Hager and Jenni Benningfield each had six rebounds, and McElhiney had five. Tia Battle had a team-high five steals.

Jocelynn Penn led the Gamecocks with 27 points, followed by Kelly Morrone with 14. Petra Ulhelyi was leading rebounder with 9, followed by Penn with 8. Penn also had nine steals.

For the game, the Commodores shot 43% from the field, an icy 38.5% in the first half and a more respectable 48% in the second half. The Gamecocks shot 35.7% from the field in the first half and a sizzling 61% in the second half, helped by Penn's 8 for 8 from the field. From 3-point range, Vandy shot only 27.8% for the game compared to 35.3% for South Carolina.

With the loss, Vanderbilt falls to 10-5 (0-2 SEC) while South Carolina improves to 14-2 (2-1 SEC). Next the Commodores continue their home stand, hosting the Kentucky Wildcats Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. CT.

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