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Gamecock men sweep Vanderbilt, and just might have a little life

Keep picking up those Ws.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecock men used another explosive second half to put away an opponent, going on a timely run that pushed them past Vanderbilt 71-60 and earned them a season sweep of the Commodores on Wednesday night.

The Gamecocks weathered an early storm of poor shooting (particularly from 3-point range and the free-throw line) and another big performance from Scottie Pippen Jr., taking control after halftime. South Carolina outrebounded Vanderbilt (41-29) and also scored 23 points off of Commodore turnovers, while managing to limit its own mistakes.

James Reese V was the standout Gamecock, putting up 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Jermaine Couisnard (14 points) and Erik Stevenson (13) rounded out the double-figure scoring for South Carolina.

Now sitting at 12-7 overall and 3-4 in the SEC, things could get a little interesting for USC. Embattled coach Frank Martin, after receiving what was essentially a mulligan for a COVID-hampered 2020-21 season that saw the Gamecocks constantly bedeviled by the virus, is almost certainly coaching for his job. An out-of-conference slate that once again saw South Carolina take a couple embarrassing Ls got this campaign off to a bad and familiar start, but the Gamecocks appear to be picking up a little momentum in conference play after dispatching both Georgia and Vanderbilt with come-from-behind wins.

In terms of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament (yes, it’s technically still possible right now, don’t laugh!), South Carolina probably needs to finish, at minimum, .500 in SEC play, with two or three more games above that mark being ideal (and especially if the Gamecocks can pick up another win or two in the SEC Tournament). At 3-4, USC is ninth in the league, though it’s lurking just behind a bunch of four-win teams that make up the SEC’s middle of the pack. Now that USC appears to have the Unexpected Ugly Loss bug out of its system for the moment, it’s time to figure out how to pick up some Unexpected Awesome Wins, and maybe make some moves up the standings.

That challenge will begin this Saturday at Texas A&M, where the 15-5 (4-3 SEC) Aggies have picked up nice wins against the likes of Butler and Arkansas, and hung tough in losses to ranked teams LSU and Kentucky. These past two victories could prove to be a turning point for the Gamecocks that sets them on a much different narrative than the one they started the season with. We’ll see how it unfolds.