Vanderbilt had a chance to upset No. 22 South Carolina on the road, but three separate streaks of terrible shooting ultimately derailed their chance for victory in a 69-65 defeat.
Vandy made just 32.8% of their shots from the field in a game whose pace was dictated by whistles. The two teams combined for 48 fouls as the referees decided to be generous with their off-ball calls on Saturday. However, it was Vanderbilt's nine-minute stretch without a field goal, not the men in stripes, that sank the team to 0-3 in conference play.
The Commodores shook up their lineup in the midst of a 1-3 slump. Wade Baldwin started the game on the bench while Riley LaChance took over duties at the point and Jeff Roberson moved back to his more natural position at small forward next to Luke Kornet and Damian Jones. The change made a difference; Vanderbilt ran out to an early 15-7 lead thanks to a suffocating defense that forced the Gamecocks into bad shots.
While the Vandy D remained strong a cold spell pulled South Carolina back into the game. The 'Dores missed eight straight three-pointers and made only two shots from the field in a nearly seven-minute stretch that allowed USC to chip away at their lead. Vanderbilt went into the locker room as the first team of the season to hold a halftime lead against the Gamecocks, 38-35.
The 'Dores used a hot start to push that lead to eight points early on, but a raucous home crowd and some scrappy defense helped South Carolina keep this game within reach throughout the second half. Vanderbilt missed eight straight shots in an almost five minute field goal drought that allowed USC to claim their first lead of the game, 51-49, with 11:02 left to play. Vandy found the points to tie the game back up, but another five-minute stretch of missed shots allowed the home team to hang on to a 60-58 lead at the final media timeout.
Vanderbilt struggled without Damian Jones on the floor, and their inability to score from the floor ultimately sealed their fate. The 'Dores endured a 1-18 shooting streak that gave South Carolina the latitude to extend their lead to six points with under a minute to play. Unlike the team's last game against Arkansas, there were no last minute heroics to bail this team out. The Gamecocks defended their lead and held on for a 69-65 finish.
Vanderbilt fell to 8-7 and 0-3 in SEC play with the loss. South Carolina improved to 15-0 and 2-0 against conference opponents. The Commodores will return to Memorial Gym on Tuesday when they host Auburn.