Dominique Archie has started every game the past three seasons. That means the junior forward has seen a lot of losing — and now finally, a lot of winning.
So it was fitting the junior forward had the biggest play on the night USC bettered its record from the previous two seasons.
It went in the stat sheet as a block, which didn’t adequately describe it. Archie pinned what looked to be a go-ahead layup by Vanderbilt, and a teammate rebounded.
USC never trailed again, and after an 86-76 victory against Vanderbilt on Wednesday, the Gamecocks could start looking to its next big test. The win improved the Gamecocks to 15-4, after a pair of 14-win seasons.
Archie was soft-spoken and modest about the block and his 17-point performance. It was left to his coach and the team’s best player — or second-best, in that player’s opinion — to laud Archie.
“Dominique Archie is probably the best player on our team because he brings so much,” USC guard Devan Downey said. “I think some people look at the box score and say he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that. But he’ll get you big steals, big rebounds, big blocks. He’s just the X-factor for our team.”
That was saying a lot, considering Downey was a first-team All-SEC pick last year and is on his way to again earning the honor. He had a game-high 18 points, 12 in the second half.
Gamecock coach Darrin Horn, without ranking his players, echoed Downey.
“I haven’t seen everybody in the league, but I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody that does more for their team than Dominique Archie,” Horn said.
Once the game was over, the attention could turn to Saturday’s trip to No. 24 Kentucky. The Gamecocks go in with a three-game conference win streak, a first for the program since 2006.
Horn said it was another step for his program. He saw another important one on Wednesday: After blowing a 13-point lead, USC recovered.
The Gamecocks had a 13-point lead a minute into the second half following an Archie 3-pointer. But Vanderbilt reeled off the next 14 points.
“It didn’t look like any of our guys got real worked up about that,” Horn said. “I thought that was really good to see. I think that’s a step for our team and our players and our program.”
After trading baskets, USC went on its own 11-0 run. Archie’s block came two points into the run. Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy, caught the ball near the top of the lane, threw a nice backdoor pass to a driving Jeffery Taylor, whose layup was blocked along the baseline by Archie.
“Dude just kind of stuck the ball out there and kind of gave me the opportunity,” Archie said. “I just took advantage of it.”
The Gamecocks also had a 15-0 run in the first half, when their defense forced 15 turnovers. USC expertly exploited Vandy’s lack of guards.
“We’ve got a young group, and that pressure affected us, for sure,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.
The Gamecocks also were helped by their 3-point shooting (8-for-21) and the struggles of Ogilvy. The preseason first-team All-SEC pick, who has been battling sickness and foot problems, didn’t start and played only 21 minutes. He was a factor during Vanderbilt’s second-half run, but at no other time.
Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.