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South Carolina falls apart down the stretch in 71-62 loss to Vanderbilt

Going over nine minutes without a field goal isn’t a recipe for success.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

You can pick from several stats from this evening: Vanderbilt’s seven made threes in the second half, South Carolina’s 1-9 showing from beyond the arc, or the Commodores’ 22-5 edge in bench points. But the number (or numbers) that might stick out the most in the Gamecocks’ 71-62 loss at Vandy might be 9:16. That’s the span of time between Hassani Gravett’s basket with 9:40 remaining and a three-point basket by PJ Dozier with just 24 seconds left in the contest, with the game already decided.

The Gamecocks actually had a 32-27 lead early in the second half, but Vandy went on a 13-4 run - which included a pair of threes by Riley LaChance - to take a 40-36 lead with 16:22 left. A 6-0 Gamecocks spurt would put the visitors back ahead 42-40 with 14:50 left. From there, it see-sawed a bit for the next few minutes before Carolina found themselves up 53-47 on Gravett’s make with 9:40 left, and it seemed like they were ready to take control. But the wheels came off - big time. The Gamecocks went nearly the entire rest of the half without a field goal and, even worse, managed just nine points (six from the free throw line) the rest of the half. All told, the Commodores finished the game on a 24-9 run as Carolina simply went ice cold from the floor, going 0-6 at one point.

The loss wasted great efforts by Sindarius Thornwell (21) and Chris Silva (14). PJ Dozier also had a strong night with 15 points, but was just 0-5 from the line and missed a critical front end of a one-and-one that would have helped turn the momentum back in the Gamecocks’ favor a little. Duane Notice had seven points, but besides Gravett (two) and Sedee Keita (three), the bench was absolutely silent as no other player scored a single point.

That’s now three of the last four for the Gamecocks that have gone in the loss column as their aspirations of a share of the SEC title have all but vanished. And with a tough couple of games coming up (at red-hot Florida on Tuesday, a 7pm tip on ESPN, followed by Tennessee at home next Saturday), the road doesn’t get any easier. Couple that with the fact that Alabama and Arkansas (who both beat the Gamecocks) are now a game back in the standings and the pressure heats up even more.