South Carolina-Vanderbilt Preview
Vanderbilt was rolling when it entered conference play against South Carolina, but currently finds itself in last in the SEC's East Division due to injuries and an inability to close out games.
The 23rd-ranked Commodores will try to avoid losing their third straight Saturday when they host the Gamecocks.
Vanderbilt (15-6, 3-4) had won four in a row and was 11-2 as it opened league play against South Carolina on Jan. 8. However, despite a career-high 27 points from John Jenkins, the Commodores couldn't put the Gamecocks away and would go on to lose 83-75 in overtime.
On Tuesday, Vanderbilt suffered its third overtime loss this season, 65-61 at Florida. Jenkins, the conference's leading scorer, had 13 of his 22 points in the second half, but he shot an air ball after Florida had taken a 63-61 lead.
"He doesn't shoot many air balls," said coach Kevin Stallings, who thought there was a foul on the play. "I've watched him play for a long time and I haven't seen many air balls come off that kid's hand."
Jenkins, who is averaging 19.3 points, will try to stay hot Saturday. He's scored at least 21 in three straight games while shooting 58.3 percent the last two.
However, Vanderbilt has struggled on the boards the last two games, getting outrebounded 47-34 by Florida and 30-22 by Arkansas in an 89-78 home loss last Saturday.
The failure on the boards can be attributed in part to an ankle injury suffered by leading rebounder Lance Goulbourne. He played only 17 minutes against the Razorbacks and has nine rebounds the last two games, barely more than his 7.8 season average.
Goulbourne has taken on a bigger role replacing forward Andre Walker, who went down with mononucleosis and then an ankle injury in December after starting eight games.
Vanderbilt hasn't lost three straight since a four-game losing streak Jan. 17-28, 2009. However, it suffered a 77-73 home loss to the Gamecocks on March 6, one of only three losses in the last 33 games at Memorial Gym.
Meanwhile, South Carolina (13-7, 4-3) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 64-56 win over LSU on Wednesday. After shooting 33.9 percent the previous two contests, including going 10 of 51 from 3-point range, the Gamecocks shot 44 percent against the Tigers and went 6 of 16 beyond the arc.
Bruce Ellington scored 20 points, including eight in a key second-half run in which he hit a pair of 3-pointers.
"He is a terrific player and above that, he is a winner," coach Darrin Horn said of the freshman point guard. "When ... you look at what he is doing for his team in the different statistical categories he is right up there with the best in the country."
Ellington, who leads the team with 14.5 points per game while shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range, scored 22 points in the victory over Vanderbilt last month, including 12 of South Carolina's final 15 points in regulation.
The Gamecocks are looking to sweep the regular season series for the first time since 2003-04.