After cutting a 10-point deficit to two, South Carolina's (11-6, 1-3 SEC) comeback fell short as Vanderbilt (7-9, 1-3 SEC) defeated the Gamecocks 58-51 in conference action at Colonial Life Arena. Senior Lakeem Jackson recorded his 500th career rebound in a Gamecock uniform. Jackson entered the day needing one board to hit the milestone and pulled down a game-high 10.
Junior guard Brenton Williams scored a game-high 16 points in the contest to lead the way for South Carolina. He was the only Gamecock to score double figures. Freshman forward Michael Carrera tallied eight points and nine rebounds in the effort. The Gamecocks were 14-of-59 from the floor, but got 19 points from the free throws hitting 19-of-25.
South Carolina recorded just seven turnovers while registering nine steals. Vanderbilt recorded 18 turnovers on the day. The Commodores out-rebounded the Gamecocks 41-33.
Junior guard Kyle Fuller scored 12 to lead the Commodores on offense. Sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker added 11 points and five rebounds. Kedren Johnson, a sophomore guard, pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Johnson, the team's leading scorer, was held to three points, all from the free throw line.
South Carolina took an early 8-5 lead when junior guard Bruce Ellington drove to the basket and kicked the ball out to Williams for a 3. The Gamecocks would not score for nearly 10 minutes after the shot, starting the contest on 2-of-16 shooting. Free throws from Williams and junior guard Eric Smith were the only Gamecock points during the stretch.
With Vanderbilt holding an 18-12 advantage, Ellington ended the drought with an acrobatic reverse layup to make the score 18-14.
Williams found the net with a 3-pointer with 4:15 remaining before the break to pull the Gamecocks to within one at 18-17. Vanderbilt responded with a pair of Parker free throws which Carrera answered with a jumper to once again pull the Gamecocks within one. Vanderbilt scored the last four points of the half on layups by Fuller and freshman forward Sheldon Jeter to take a 24-19 lead into the break.
The Gamecocks ended the first half shooting 5-of-29 (17.2%) from the floor and were out-rebounded by the Commodores 21-15. South Carolina kept the game within reach with a 9-of-10 performance at the free throw line.
During halftime festivities, the South Carolina football team was recognized for their second-straight 11-win season and their victory in the Outback Bowl over Michigan in Tampa, Fla, on Jan. 1, 2013.
Out of the break, Jackson scored the first points of the half on a turnaround jumper in the lane to pull the Gamecocks to within three at 24-21. South Carolina struggled from the floor again, starting the half 2-of-9.
South Carolina's shooting woes allowed Vanderbilt to grow their lead to nine as the Commodores went on an 8-2 run to make the score 32-23 with 15:55 to go.
Williams hit a 3 to cut into the Vanderbilt lead at 38-32. The Commodores responded by scoring four straight points to push the lead to 10.
Trailing by 10 at 45-35 with 8:35 to go, Carrera hit two shots, cutting the lead to six. Again Vanderbilt pushed the lead to nine.
With 5:48 remaining, Jackson knocked down a pair of free throws to get within six at 48-42. On the next possession, Ellington stole the ball and hit Jackson in transition for the dunk.
Ellington picked up his second steal in a row on the next Vanderbilt possession. This time the two-sport athlete elected to take it himself. Ellington missed the shot, but was fouled. Ellington knocked down both free throws to pull the Gamecocks within two at 48-46 with 1:01 remaining.
The Gamecocks pulled within two again on an Ellington jumper with 2:56 to go, but could not get any closer. Vanderbilt hit 7-of-12 free throws down the stretch to hang on for the 58-51 win.
South Carolina will travel to Columbia, Mo., to face the Tigers for the first time in conference play. The SEC contest is slated to begin at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.