COLUMBIA, S.C.-- Reserve guard Carlos Powell came off the bench to score 21 points, and South Carolina used a 15-3 run midway through the second half to put away Vanderbilt 76-64 Saturday. The loss, Vanderbilt's seventh in a row, insured that the Commodores (10-15, 3-11) will finish the regular season at the bottom of the SEC East standings.
South Carolina (12-13, 5-9) stayed in the hunt for a NIT bid. Chuck Eidson added 18 points, and Rolando Howell had 13 points as the Gamecocks ended a two-game losing streak.
The Commodores kept things close for 25 minutes, and even took a 39-33 lead with 14:06 left in the game on an alley-oop play to Matt Freije. Dave Odom called time out, and Chris Warren immediately hit two 3-pointers to tie the game and jumpstart the sluggish Gamecocks. South Carolina proceeded to score 12 unanswered points to turn the 6-point lead around. The game was never in serious doubt again.
''They hit those two 3s and then we threw the ball to them a couple of times, and that got their run going,'' Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings said. ''We got into some bad defensive groupings during that stretch where a guy would come down and be in the wrong defense. We were having to shuffle a lot of different guys in during that time to match up, and some of the guys we were putting out there just didn't know what defense they were supposed to be in."
Turnovers were again a bugaboo for Vanderbilt. The Commodores had 20 turnovers, many of which led directly to fast-break baskets for the homestanding Gamecocks. Matt Freije led the Commodores with 22 points, while Brian Thornton added 13 points and nine rebounds.
The two teams traded leads in a back-and-forth first half. Vanderbilt had nine first-half turnovers, but offset that by outrebounding South Carolina 20-11.
Vanderbilt is winless in 10 road games this year. The Commodores were swept for the season by South Carolina, which defeated Vanderbilt in Nashville 84-72 on Feb. 8.
"I thought a key point in the game was when Lakey was fouled driving to the basket and the referees took his free throws away," said Stallings. "Then we turned the ball over and they hit a 3-pointer. They hit us with a bunch of shots after that. That was the turning point because [South Carolina] had all the momentum and we were fighting to stay in the game with Freije on the bench.
"This was a typical game for us. We have a 2-3-5 minute stretch where we can't score, and USC took advantage of that to extend the lead and we were struggling to get back into it all night. We are frustrated right now, but you can't focus on that, you have to look ahead. We have been frustrated for a long time now."
The Commodores (10-15, 3-11) must now go on the road for a Wednesday game against No. 2 Kentucky at Rupp Arena in Lexington, a building where Vanderbilt has never won. The Wildcats, idle Saturday, play Georgia Sunday on the road.