USC Men's Basketball

Gamecocks continue slide in loss at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt’s Joe Toye passes the ball between South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell and center Chris Silva.
Vanderbilt’s Joe Toye passes the ball between South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell and center Chris Silva. AP

South Carolina coach Frank Martin said his team had to find its spirit after a loss to Arkansas on Wednesday.

The No. 21 Gamecocks, who are sure to fall out of the Top 25 on Monday, are still looking for it.

USC dropped its third of four games at Vanderbilt on Saturday, 71-62. It was a refrain of the others, and of recent games USC managed to win – the Gamecocks’ once-fearsome defense has become exposed, and USC couldn’t supply near-enough offense to help SEC Player of the Year candidate Sindarius Thornwell.

A six-point lead with 9:40 to play became a one-point deficit, as the Commodores again turned to their devastating 3-point shooting. The SEC’s top-ranked team from outside stroked nine against the country’s No. 1 3-point defense, including Matthew Fisher-Davis’ third with eight minutes to go for the lead.

That finished a disastrous stretch where P.J. Dozier missed two free throws, then turned the ball over to start the possession ending in the 3. USC fought, getting the game to one possession several times, but continued to break down defensively.

“What’s been haunting us here for the last 12 days, 14 days, whatever,” Martin said on his post-game radio show. “Not guarding the basketball.”

Riley LaChance’s 3-pointer with 3:22 to go gave Vanderbilt a six-point lead and USC couldn’t shoot its way back in the game. Thornwell finished with 21 but USC again got nearly nothing from its bench (a mere five points).

USC hit one 3-pointer, in the final 30 seconds, and missed nine free throws. The Gamecocks had 12 turnovers against the SEC’s second-worst team in forcing turnovers. USC was out-scored 24-9 in the final 9:40.

The Gamecocks (20-7, 10-4 SEC) remained in third place in the SEC, but by just one game over Alabama and Arkansas, who they would lose tiebreakers to when it comes to determining the double-bye for the SEC tournament.

USC may also continue to slide in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee. The Gamecocks’ 3-3 skid to end last year’s regular season factored into their exclusion from the tournament; thus far this year, USC is 0-2 in its final six, with No. 15 Florida waiting in Gainesville on Tuesday.

How do the Gamecocks respond? The way they did after beating Michigan, then going to Brooklyn to beat Syracuse, Martin said.

“We got to find the will, the determination, to do it again.”

SOUTH CAROLINA (20-7)

Silva 6-9 2-2 14, Kotsar 0-4 0-0 0, Thornwell 6-15 9-9 21, Notice 3-7 1-3 7, Dozier 7-15 0-5 15, Keita 1-2 1-3 3, Gueye 0-0 0-0 0, Felder 0-1 0-0 0, Blanton 0-1 0-0 0, McKie 0-0 0-0 0, Gravett 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-56 13-22 62.

VANDERBILT (14-13)

Kornet 2-5 3-4 9, Roberson 0-1 6-8 6, LaChance 4-9 3-3 14, Cressler 5-9 2-3 13, Toye 2-5 3-6 7, Brown 1-2 1-3 3, Baptiste 1-1 0-1 2, Willis 0-2 0-0 0, Fisher-Davis 5-11 4-4 17. Totals 20-45 22-32 71.

Halftime: South Carolina 30-27. 3-Point Goals: South Carolina 1-9 (Dozier 1-3, Thornwell 0-1, Felder 0-1, Keita 0-1, Notice 0-3), Vanderbilt 9-25 (LaChance 3-6, Fisher-Davis 3-8, Kornet 2-5, Cressler 1-3, Willis 0-1, Roberson 0-1, Toye 0-1). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: South Carolina 31 (Dozier 7), Vanderbilt 33 (Kornet 7). Assists: South Carolina 7 (Notice 3), Vanderbilt 9 (LaChance 4). Total Fouls: South Carolina 22, Vanderbilt 22.

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