NASHVILLE, Tenn. | The Vanderbilt Commodores are not dwelling over their mistakes this season. Not when they still have games left to play.
A.J. Ogilvy scored a career-high 28 points and Vanderbilt had its best scoring night this season in beating South Carolina 96-83 Saturday night, keeping the Commodores' very faint NCAA tournament dreams alive.
"I told them that this was a fork in the road," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said of rebounding from a loss to last-place Georgia. "A lot of teams and individuals would be ready for the season to end with us not being in play for the tournament other than our conference tournament. I think they responded extremely well."
The Gamecocks (20-7, 9-5) came in sitting alone atop the SEC East, having won four of their last five. Now they are tied with Florida and Tennessee, who play Sunday, in the loss column in league play after a game in which they scored the opening basket, and that was their only lead of the night as they trailed by as much as 25.
"If we were able to win tonight, they're would have been no worries," South Carolina guard Devan Downey said. "We'll be watching the game tomorrow."
Vanderbilt (17-11, 6-8) snapped a two-game skid, coming off its worst shooting performance of the season in a loss at Georgia. The Commodores made up for that on a night where students are out on spring break by hitting 11 of their first 13 against South Carolina.
Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn complemented Vanderbilt.
"They were incredible. They came out big offensively and defensively. We couldn't get any stops. They pressured well. They played extremely well," Horn said.
Jermaine Beal also had a career-high with 27 points for Vanderbilt. Jeffery Taylor added 17 and Brad Tinsley 16
"We don't have anything to lose right now," Beal said. "We know our standing right now in the conference. But our season's far from over, and our coaching staff knows that and our team knows that. We're trying to get better and have fun and seize every opportunity we have."
Downey led South Carolina with 24 points. Zam Fredrick added 21, Brandis Raley-Ross 15 and Mike Holmes 12.
Vanderbilt led 47-27 at halftime, and it was too deep a hole for South Carolina to rally back. The Gamecocks didn't get closer than 14 in the second half until the final seconds.
In the teams' previous game, three Commodores fouled out. This time, they stayed aggressive in going to the basket and made most of the trips to the line, outshooting South Carolina 26-of-35 compared to 6-of-9.
"We gave away too many free shots tonight and allowed Vandy to get into an offensive flow," Fredrick said. "They made good plays and were able to get comfortable tonight."
Downey scored on a fast-break layup within the opening minute. Taylor answered with a reverse layup, Ogilvy scored, Beal hit two free throws on a dead ball technical to Holmes and Tinsley sunk a 3-pointer from the corner for a 9-2 lead.
The Commodores took turns scoring. Taylor scored six of the first 13 points for Vandy, then Ogilvy took over as he hit his first five shots including a dunk after faking a 3-pointer before driving to the basket and his baseline drive pushed the lead to 19-8 with 13:31 to go. Then Ogilvy, who fouled out of Vandy's loss at South Carolina on Jan. 28, added a 3-pointer.
Another technical, also on the Gamecocks, allowed Vandy to sink four straight free throws in pushing out the lead. Then Beal hit consecutive 3s for a 20-point margin at 37-17 with 7:36 remaining.
South Carolina couldn't even get off a decent final shot at the end of the first half. Downey dribbled down the clock for a final shot when he found himself under pressure, so he passed off to Fredrick. But his shot just before the buzzer was left and never came close to the basket.
A sequence in the second half summed up Vandy's night. Ogilvy got the ball under the basket, hesitated long enough for Dominique Archie to close in on him to draw the foul, then went up and scored. He then converted the three-point play at the line for a 64-41 margin.
SOUTH CAROLINA (20-7) | Archie 3-7 0-0 7, Muldrow 0-0 0-0 0, Holmes 5-9 1-4 12, Downey 9-27 5-5 24, Fredrick 9-19 0-0 21, Raley-Ross 6-13 0-0 15, Wilder 0-0 0-0 0, Steed 2-3 0-0 4, Baniulis 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 34-81 6-9 83.
VANDERBILT (17-11) | Tchiengang 0-0 0-1 0, Taylor 6-7 5-6 17, Ogilvy 12-15 3-7 28, Beal 7-14 8-9 27, Tinsley 3-5 8-8 16, Hinkle 0-0 0-0 0, Ezeli 1-2 0-0 2, Goulbourne 1-2 0-1 2, Cole 0-0 0-0 0, McClellan 0-2 0-0 0, Drake 1-3 2-3 4, Duffy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-50 26-35 96.
Halftime_Vanderbilt 47-27. 3-Point Goals_South Carolina 9-35 (Raley-Ross 3-8, Fredrick 3-10, Holmes 1-1, Archie 1-4, Downey 1-10, Baniulis 0-2), Vanderbilt 8-16 (Beal 5-9, Tinsley 2-4, Ogilvy 1-2, McClellan 0-1). Fouled Out_Muldrow. Rebounds_South Carolina 32 (Holmes 7), Vanderbilt 40 (Beal 7). Assists_South Carolina 9 (Downey 6), Vanderbilt 14 (Tinsley 5). Total Fouls_South Carolina 25, Vanderbilt 14. Technicals_Holmes, South Carolina Bench. A_13,963.