Men's Hoops: Gamecocks shock Commodores, 84-72

A South Carolina team that entered the game winless on the road and last in the SEC in scoring suddenly found its shooting touch on Ingram Court Saturday night. The Gamecocks shot a season-high 59% from the floor and snapped a seven-game losing streak on the way to a surprisingly easy 84-72 win over Vanderbilt. The Commodores, which dropped to 3-6 in the SEC and 10-10 overall, saw their hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid take a devastating hit.

NASHVILLE-- A South Carolina team that entered Memorial Gym winless on the road and last in the SEC in scoring suddenly found its shooting touch Saturday night.  The Gamecocks shot a season-high 59% from the floor and snapped a seven-game losing streak on the way to a surprisingly easy 84-72 win over Vanderbilt.

The Gamecocks, which entered the game shooting only 28% from 3-point range (last in the SEC), torched the Vandy defense by hitting 7-of-11 (63%) from behind the arc on the way to their second SEC win.   Meanwhile the Commodores, which dropped to 3-6 in the SEC and 10-10 overall, saw their hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid take a devastating hit.

The Memorial Gym crowd of 11,101 began filtering out halfway through the second half.

"Our team hasn't guarded anyone in a few weeks," said a despondent Kevin Stallings afterwards on the ISP Sports Network.  "That was as sickening a performance as I've ever seen.  I'm ashamed.  Our players are ashamed.  Our fans deserve better.  There's got to be somebody who can do a better job with this team than I can."

For the umpteenth time this season, the Commodores allowed a struggling team to have a banner night.

"They're not normally a good shooting team, and we made them look like All-Americans," added Stallings.  "That's what we do.  We make the other team look better than they are.

"Everybody has bad nights, but you don't have a night like we had Wednesday night [82-60 road loss to Mississippi State], and then have a game like we had tonight.  We just didn't have a whole lot of pride tonight."

Brian Thornton led the way in scoring for Vanderbilt with 22 points, while Matt Freije added 13 and Jason Holwerda 10.  The Gamecocks (8-11, 2-7 SEC) were led by Chuck Eidson's 18 points.

Vanderbilt opened the game by going inside successfully to Thornton, and the Commodore big man responded by scoring the team's first eight points en route to a 12-9 Vandy lead.  But the Gamecocks soon began collapsing on Thornton and forcing turnovers, and breaking down the Commodore defense with dribble penetration.  The result was a 23-4 run that turned a 12-9 Commodore lead into a 32-16 deficit.

The Commodores turned up the defense in the second half and closed the gap to 12 points with 7:54 left.  But the Gamecocks immediately responded with a Kerbrell Brown 3-pointer and a Chris Warren layup which stretched the lead back to 17.

With 1:21 left Vanderbilt cut the lead to 11 on a Matt Freije 3-pointer.  The Commodores narrowed the lead to 78-70 inside the final minute, but were unable to get closer than eight points.

Vanderbilt travels Wednesday night to Baton Rouge, La. to face John Brady's LSU Tigers on the first game of a two-game road trip.  Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Maravich Assembly Center.  LSU lost a road game Saturday to Auburn, 56-54.

NOTES: The loss was Vanderbilt's fourth in a row to South Carolina at Memorial Gym... Corey Smith, who had missed the last three games with a fractured wrist, played in the second half with his left hand heavily bandaged, scored 8 points and pulled down 4 rebounds... Vanderbilt lost its first game of the season when wearing its gold home uniforms... Vanderbilt's 3-point string was extended to 524 consecutive games.


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