"South Carolina's offense has gone off the rails."
How many times could that sentence have been uttered so far this season? FSN play-by-play man Pete Pranica used it to describe the latest futile attempt at offense for the Gamecocks.
With 13 minutes left in the ball game, South Carolina held a 12-point lead. With four minutes left, the Commodores held a seven point lead. The 'Dores ended up leaving Memorial Gymnasium this afternoon with a 15-point, 65-50 win. About a 10 minute stretch of this game doomed South Carolina and provided viewers with a solid display of how not to play basketball.
The torment for South Carolina fans seemed to start when sophomore guard Duane Notice picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench. Vanderbilt proceeded to rattle off an 18-0 run that caused South Carolina's double-digit lead to suddenly transform into a suffocating deficit. The Gamecocks went about six minutes without scoring, missing all seven field goals they attempted in that span. It was all highlighted by a possession where they took three shots and not a single one touched the rim. To finish the game, South Carolina made three of their last 18 field goal attempts.
During the dreadful stretch, Vanderbilt regained the shooting they are known for. The Commodores led the SEC in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage but in the early portions of the game they hit just 1-of-7 three-point attempts and were shooting around 40 percent from the field while South Carolina was shooting 52 percent. The Gamecocks led at halftime 26-22, their first lead at the break in an SEC road game this season. The even started the second half with a 5-0 run that pushed their lead to nine before increasing it further followed by the derailing.
Vandy is normally a good 3-point shooting team but they simply weren't falling early on. Back-to-back threes combined with Notice's fourth foul and the newly energized crowd is what sparked Vanderbilt's impressive 18-0 run. One of the youngest backcourts in the country, freshman Wade Baldwin IV and Riley LaChance, combined for 31 points. Senior forward James Siakam brought tons of energy and also added 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Gamecocks effectively made Vandy's best player, center Damian Jones, rather ineffective, holding him well below his season averages. The sophomore from Baton Rouge tallied nine points and two rebounds after coming in averaging close to 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Sindarius Thornwell led the Gamecocks with 12 points but he and Tyrone Johnson (6 points) combined to shoot 5-of-15. Duane Notice had 10 on 4-of-6 shooting but was absent during the scoring drought due to the aforementioned foul trouble. Laimonas Chatkevcius started 0-of-5 in the first half and finished 1-of-7 with two points and three rebounds. I have hyped up Michael Carrera over the last few games, deservedly so I do believe, but he delivered a stinker today. Playing just 10 minutes after picking up two early fouls, the junior forward had five points and two rebounds. Freshman point guard Marcus Stroman had as many rebounds as Chatkevicius and Carrera combined (4) for much of the game until Chat brought down a late board to somewhat avoid that embarrassment. Demetrius Henry played but it did not go so well, two points and a rebound in 21 minutes. Brian Steele played 15 minutes and hit two 3-pointers in the first half to kickstart South Carolina's early lead but didn't add another point the rest of the way.
Vanderbilt bullied South Carolina for much of the game. The Commodores won the battle in the paint, scoring 28 points in that area to the Gamecocks' 16 points and outrebounded Frank Martin's club 33-20. They also benefitted from their 29 trips to the charity stripe. South Carolina only mustered 13 but give credit to Vandy, they attacked and at times USC couldn't play defense without fouling. Once you get down, and you play like that, it renders any hope of a comeback irrelevant.
After the game, Frank Martin appeared on the usual post-game radio broadcast and delivered some interesting thoughts about his team. "We got guys who don't post, don't get rebounds, don't shoot free throws, don't hit layups," Martin said. "The game got hard, and our guys didn't respond."
South Carolina now hasn't won at Vanderbilt since 2010 and the response will be an interesting one. The Missouri Tigers enter Colonial Life Arena Tuesday night with two key contributors missing. It was announced during this afternoon's game that the school has suspended freshman guards Montaque Gil-Caser and Namon Wright for a violation of team rules. Today's blown lead was extremely dissappointing to me. A loss at home Tuesday would be that times infinity. I'm ready for the response.