Down by 14 in the second half, South Carolina needed to get hot to pull out a victory against Vanderbilt. By the time regulation was over, they were downright scorching.
A barrage of long three-pointers and offensive rebounds got the Gamecocks back in the game, and they rode their hot streak through overtime to win a battle against the Commodores, 83-75.
Bruce Ellington and Sam Muldrow were poisonous against Vanderbilt, creating an inside-out combination that shredded the 'Dores on both sides of the court. Ellington's dagger threes pushed the Gamecocks on offense, and Muldrow's interior defense kept Vandy from getting close to the basket on the other end. Throughout the second half the pair drove South Carolina back from a huge deficit and into a controlling lead.
Muldrow outplayed the more heralded Festus Ezeli, putting up 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 blocks despite playing much of crunch time with four fouls. Ellington scored 17 points in the second half, including five three-pointers, and added seven rebounds and four assists of his own. Together, the two sunk Vanderbilt's chances to start the SEC season with an undefeated record.
The loss comes despite one of John Jenkins's finest games as a Commodore. The sophomore sharpshooter was dangerous from long range all night, burying six three-pointers and scoring 27 points. Jeffery Taylor had a rough showing, shooting just 4-16 and missing a potential game-winning shot as time wound down late in the second half. Lance Goulbourne was the team's most effective player in the frontcourt, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds and scoring nine point. Ezeli had just seven points and four rebounds.
Vanderbilt played well, but it would be tough for any team in the SEC to handle South Carolina's onslaught in the second half. The Gamecocks absolutely caught fire and took advantage of every opportunity they had to pull even with the Commodores. Their constitution in the clutch clearly rattled Kevin Stallings's team; Vandy closed out regulation without a field goal in the final four minutes.
The loss drops the 'Dores to 11-3 on the season and likely out of the Top 25 rankings. More importantly, it robs them of a chance to gain a game on Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC standings after both squads suffered early upsets to Georgia and Arkansas, respectively. It was a rude awakening for Vanderbilt, and the team's worst loss of the season, especially considering the 22 point swing over the final 18 minutes of play.
Stallings's crew will have to learn from this loss if this team is going to vie for a SEC title. Vanderbilt gave too many opportunities to a team that was nearly buried midway through the second half. This team can't win many games if only John Jenkins and Lance Goulbourne are playing up to their abilities. The Commodores need to figure out how to fire on all cylinders to climb into the driver's seat in the SEC East - and they'll need to do it fast.