South Carolina 77, No. 13 Vanderbilt 73

South Carolina coach Darrin Horn drew the play up for his senior

in the huddle, and Devan Downey executed.

To perfection.

Downey came off a ball screen and hit a 3-pointer with 1:48 left

to break a 69-all tie, and South Carolina upset No. 13 Vanderbilt

77-73 on Saturday in its regular season finale. South Carolina

(15-15, 6-10) snapped a six-game skid with a victory that pushed

the Gamecocks up to the East’s fifth seed in the upcoming

Southeastern Conference tournament.

“He’s done that his whole career,” Horn said. “It’s never

about what somebody’s done something to him. It’s about, ‘It’s time

to win,’ and he’s a young man who really relishes that moment. He

made some huge plays tonight.”

Downey had just four points in the first half, but the league’s

top scorer finished with 26 in rallying the Gamecocks. The senior

said his teammates agreed to keep fighting.

“Right now, just playing for pride,” Downey said. “We got a

big win, Top 25 win on the road. We’ve just got to carry that

momentum into the SEC tournament.”

Vanderbilt (23-7, 12-4) already had the No. 2 seed in the East

locked up before blowing a 10-point lead by going cold from the

floor for 9:20. The Commodores rallied and tied it for the ninth

time at 69 on Jermaine Beal’s 3-pointer.

Downey answered with his sixth 3, Beal missed his 3-pointer and

also missed a layup on the next trip down the floor. South Carolina

hit 2 of 4 free throws, and Downey avoided being fouled in the

final seconds by passing upcourt where Stephen Spinella dunked to

seal the victory.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said his Commodores became too

tentative once they got control of the game and too many players

didn’t show up ready to play.

“I’m not proud of it, but they’ve bounced back all season long.

I don’t have any concerns. If they don’t want to play, they’ll

lose,” Stallings said.

Sam Muldrow added 20 points and nine rebounds for South

Carolina.

Beal finished with 21 for Vandy in the senior’s final home game,

A.J. Ogilvy had 15 and Jeff Taylor 13. Beal finished as the

winningest four-year player in Vanderbilt history with 90 wins.

“Obviously, it’s very disappointing,” Ogilvy said. “Jermaine

has meant so much to us and to the program and of course we wanted

to send him off with the win.”

South Carolina had struggled against Vanderbilt, losing 79-69 in

Columbia on Jan. 16, and the Gamecocks came to Memorial Gym having

lost seven of the last eight in this series overall.

Downey, averaging a league-high 26.2 points, was the key as he

bounced back from a poor first half in which he hit only 2 of 9

from the floor. He had only 11 points with 10 minutes left when he

finally got going, keying a 16-0 spurt with 10 points. Downey said

assistant coach Neill Berry talked to him at halftime.

“I was getting good looks but wasn’t prepared to shoot so it

was more mental, me being ready to shoot,” Downey said.

Stallings said he knew Downey would come back on the

Commodores.

“He’ll come out and try and go crazy, and he did,” Stallings

said.

Just as Downey got scoring, the Commodores went cold after John

Jenkins hit a 3-pointer with 12:21 to put them up 53-43 with 12:21

left.

After Beal hit two free throws, Muldrow got the Gamecocks

started with a bucket, then Downey heated up. The senior hit

back-to-back 3s, stole the ball and scored on a layup and also had

a pair of free throws that pushed South Carolina up 64-57. Downey’s

bucket with 4:10 to go pushed the lead to 68-59.

Vanderbilt finally started scoring again. Ogilvy hit a pair of

free throws, then Jenkins hit a 3, ending a drought that stretched

9:20.

A sellout crowd tried to scream the Commodores to victory on a

home-court where they had been 14-1 this season, but they couldn’t

counter Downey. The senior threw his entire body into launching a 3

that put the Gamecocks ahead to stay for good.

Beal scored on a pair of layups that just weren’t enough as time

ran out.

South Carolina wound up outshooting Vanderbilt 49.1 percent to

42.9 percent, while out-rebounding the Commodores 33-28.

Blame the early afternoon tipoff or simply sloppy play, but the

teams swapped the lead seven times with five ties in the first half

of a physical start – the two teams averaged more than a foul per

minute early.

Four Gamecocks had at least three fouls each with 10 minutes

left, while three Commodores had three apiece before the teams

finished with a combined 40 fouls.