Despite the game being postponed nearly 24 hours due to winter weather across the region, South Carolina (9-15, 2-9 SEC) came out and led for much of the game as the Gamecocks knocked off Vanderbilt (13-10, 5-6 SEC) 65-59 this evening at Colonial Life Arena.
Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell led Carolina, filling up the stat sheet with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists. Senior guard Brenton Williams added 14 points and freshman guard Duane Notice was also in double-figures with 10. Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller led all scorers with 20 points.
In a close contest throughout the first half, the Gamecocks held the lead for nearly the entire 20 minutes. Carolina saw its largest lead of the early going at five points, 20-15, with 7:15 on the clock after Laimonas Chatkevicius tipped in a missed attempt from Thornwell. The Commodores were able to trim the deficit to down one with under five minutes after a long jumper from leading-scorer Rod Odom.
Williams, though, responded for Carolina with his first 3-pointer of the game to make it 25-21.
Vanderbilt's Fuller was able to go the length of the court in the final seconds of the half to lay it in as South Carolina took a one-point advantage into the break at 28-27.
The Gamecocks were only able to push the lead to three in the early in the second half before back-to-back buckets from Fuller and Damian Jones gave the Commodores their first lead of the game at 33-32 with 17:25 to go.
With the game tied at 38-38 with 14:46 remaining, Notice stepped up and regained the lead for the Gamecocks with a 3-pointer from the right side. A jumper from Fuller brought it back to one, but with just under 12 minutes showing and the shot clock winding down, Thornwell hit a deep 3 to push the lead back up to four.
After Odom cut Carolina's lead back to two with a pair from the foul line, the Gamecocks upped their intensity on the boards and began fighting for ever loose ball which turned into a 7-0 run, capped off by Williams connecting from beyond the arc to give Carolina a 51-42 lead that forced Vanderbilt to call a timeout with 9:14 left.
Out of the timeout though, Odom knocked down a 3-pointer for the Commodores from the right corner to end the run.
Thornwell extended the lead to 55-45 after cutting into the lane and hitting a floater. The lead continued to grow as sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas added a free throw, before a steal from Notice led to a fast break and lay-in for sophomore forward Brian Steele with four minutes left on the clock.
The Gamecocks' lead quickly dwindled though as the Fuller scored four points for the Commodores before Odom sunk a 3 from the top of the key to cut it to 58-52.
After adding one more to its lead, Carolina pushed its advantage to nine as Thornwell went hard to bucket, missed his attempt but corralled the rebound and was able to convert on his second attempt with 1:13 remaining.
Carolina was able to hold on to the lead in the final minute to earn its second conference victory of the season, 65-59.
Vanderbilt (21-48, 43.8 percent) out-shot South Carolina (24-64, 37.5 percent), but the difference for the Gamecocks came on the glass where they out-rebounded the Commodores 45-31, while grabbing 26 offensive rebounds. Kacinas led the charge on the boards with seven, while Michael Carrera, Demetrius Henry and Thornwell each recorded six.
Those offensive rebounds led to a 23-9 advantage for Carolina in second-chance points.
The Gamecocks return to Colonial Life Arena on Saturday afternoon as they host Alabama. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET and will broadcast on SECTV.