South Carolina continued their solid play with a fairly convincing 86-76 victory over Vanderbilt in Colonial Life Arena. After we ran out to a large lead late in the first half by forcing lots of turnovers and shooting the ball well, Vanderbilt made a comeback of sorts early in the second, eventually taking a one-point lead with about twelve minutes left. At that point, though, we took over the game, largely by virtue of the play of Devan Downey, who had 12 of his 18 points in the second half. Downey lead the Gamecocks in scoring, while Jeffrey Taylor led all scorers with 23. A. J. Ogilvy continued to be a non-factor for the Commodores, only playing 21 minutes and scoring three points.
There were a number of things to like about this game. First of all, the Commodores gave up a whopping 21 turnovers, many of them forced. That was probably the difference in the game; Vandy shot for a slightly better percentage than us, but we got a number of easy baskets and trips to the line off turnovers. It's good to see that Horn's press is working in SEC play after it failed to generate many easy baskets against LSU and Tennessee. Of course, LSU and Tennessee are more athletic than Vandy, and we played Vandy at home, where opposing teams tend to make more mistakes due to crowd noise. Still, good to see that, at least at times, the defensive system can do its job. Second of all, we shot better from the line tonight. We didn't shoot well, mind you; 65% isn't a good percentage. However, it's better than what we've seen in some games, and in fact was only a bit worse than how Vandy fared (67%). We need to get better, but it's good that we shot better than we did against Ole Miss, because if we hadn't, we might not have won this time around.
A couple of things to note about this win: we have now exceeded our win total from the past two years, we've won three straight in conference play for the first time in a a while, and we've beaten Vandy for the first time in six tries. Actually, considering that Vandy has owned us in hoops and on the gridiron lately, this win is a landmark, of sorts. Our next game is in Lexington, and it'll be a tough one. To win, we'll have to shoot better than we did tonight, and we'll probably need a little luck. However, I've got my fingers crossed that Jodie Meeks has an off night, as a win in Lexington would be a season definer.