A tipped Vanderbilt pass landed in Sam Muldrow’s hands with 10 seconds left in overtime, and the 6-foot-9 senior forward smiled the moment before he was fouled.
The senior forward was thinking what everyone else did watching South Carolina’s SEC opener against No. 22 Vanderbilt on Saturday.
“It was a good win,” he said.
The Gamecocks beat the Commodores 83-75 in overtime before a raucous crowd at Colonial Life Arena led by Muldrow recording the second triple-double in school history. The Florence native notched 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks. Half of his blocks came after picking up his fourth foul with less than five minutes left.
USC’s only four-year senior has been inconsistent in recent games. He followed a double-double against Jacksonville State by not scoring against Boston College. But Muldrow was coming off a double-double against S.C. State on Tuesday.
“We played the way we want to play,” USC coach Darrin Horn said. “We played with tremendous energy, effort and toughness. And I thought we really had a never-quit attitude and approach throughout the game.”
Freshman guard Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks with 22 points, including five second-half 3-pointers that helped erase a 14-point Commodore lead. One of his long-range baskets went off the backboard twice to close the lead to one with less than four minutes left in the second half.
“The kid was hot,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.
Forward Malik Cooke came off the bench to grab a career-high 13 rebounds, five in overtime when USC outscored Vanderbilt 11-3. The Gamecocks outrebounded the Commodores 11-5 in the extra period.
Stallings singled out Cooke for changing in the second half with his “physicality.”
“I thought we got outworked pretty good,” Stallings said. “Even when we were ahead, I didn’t like our look. I didn’t like our demeanor. So they played with more energy than we did and deserved to win the game.”
In the first half, both teams shot 45 percent from the field and about 25 percent from 3-point range. But Vanderbilt held a seven-point lead because the Commodores got to the line for seven more tries than USC, where they outscored the Gamecocks by six.
Vanderbilt extended the lead to 14 points after the first five minutes of the second half. But USC started pressing more in the second half and worked hard to with the boards, which translated into second-chance points.
The rally started when sophomore forward Lakeem Jackson, not considered a long-range shooter, hit a 3-pointer with about 12 minutes left in the second half. The 3-pointer was the fourth of his career.
“Makes you think you’ve got a chance for things to go your way,” Horn said.
The teams also got emotional when Vanderbilt guard Jeffery Taylor fouled Ellington midway through the second half under the basket. Players had to be separated.
The Gamecocks appeared to feed from that while the Commodores started a scoring drought, only hitting three field goals in the final nine minutes and overtime combined.
Ellington then hit two 3-pointers, including one with 2:09 remaining to tie the game at 72. Muldrow then blocked a shot by Taylor, but neither team could convert on chances — Muldrow missed a 3-point attempt and Taylor missed a jumper — as the regulation ended.
In overtime, USC outhustled Vanderbilt to score the first six points and give the Gamecocks their first lead of the game. They never gave it back.
“The biggest thing is not what changes we made or what adjustments there were,” Horn said. “The most important thing is what we tell our guys all the time, ‘It’s not about what I draw on the board, are we going to defend, are we going to rebound are we share the basketball.’ ”
In the Hoop
... South Carolina’s only other triple-double came from Chuck Eidson in 2002 with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against S.C. State. The Summerville native is playing with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.
Horn won his third consecutive SEC opener.
Muldrow needs 34 more blocks to become USC’s career leader.
Attendance was listed at 10,439, the largest since the season opener against Elon.
Sam Muldrow, Lakeem Jackson and Bruce Ellington
|VANDERBILT||Min||FG M-A||FT M-A||REB O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .391, FT .750.
3-Point Goals: 7-20, .350 (Jenkins 6-10, Goulbourne 1-3, Odom 0-1, Tchiengang 0-1, Taylor 0-2, Tinsley 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 1 (Ezeli).
Turnovers: 10 (Ezeli 2, Taylor 2, Tinsley 2, Odom, Jenkins, Fuller, Tchiengang).
Steals: 4 (Taylor 2, Fuller, Jenkins).
Technical Fouls: None.
|SOUTH CAROLINA||Min||FG M-A||FT M-A||REB O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .440, FT .583.
3-Point Goals: 10-27, .370 (Ellington 6-12, Muldrow 2-7, Jackson 1-1, Galloway 1-5, Richardson 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 4.
Blocked Shots: 12 (Muldrow 10, Harris, Cooke).
Turnovers: 9 (Muldrow 3, Ellington 2, Spinella, Slawson, Cooke, Galloway).
Steals: 4 (Ellington 2, Cooke, Muldrow).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials: Mike Stuart, Bruce Benedict, Mike Thibodeaux.