GAME NOTES: The SEC regular season comes to an end on Saturday, as the South Carolina Gamecocks travel to Nashville for a bout with the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Earlier in the week, South Carolina was in a dead-lock with Mississippi State and Auburn for last place in the SEC, but it managed to climb out of the cellar on Wednesday night with a 79-72 triumph over MSU. While the Gamecocks' league ledger is still rather poor (4-13), their 14-16 overall record is a four-game improvement over last season (10-21).
Vanderbilt actually has a worse overall record than South Carolina, as it sits with an unimpressive 13-16 mark, but it has put together a more respectable performance in league play (7-10). The Commodores had been winners of three straight games heading into their latest tilt, but their run came to a halt following a 66-40 loss at regular-season champion Florida.
Vanderbilt has beaten South Carolina on four straight occasions, including a 58-51 decision in Columbia on Jan. 19, to take a 26-23 lead in the all-time series.
South Carolina was able to fend off Mississippi State at home on Wednesday night for the seven-point victory thanks mostly to the efforts of Brenton Williams, who scored a career-high 38 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range and 12-of-12 from the foul line. It was also the highest point total versus a SEC foe in school history. Lakeem Jackson was solid in the paint in the triumph, posting nine points and eight rebounds, while Bruce Ellington tallied nine points and six assists. The offensive explosion was a welcomed sign for the Gamecocks. They rank eighth in the SEC in scoring (66.4 ppg), but over the past 11 games they have topped that average just twice. Williams' historic performance allowed him to take the team lead for the season with 10.9 ppg, doing so on strong percentages from beyond the arc (.421) and the foul line (.842). Michael Carrera (10.2 ppg, 7.0 ppg) has been a solid inside presence during his freshman campaign, and Ellington tacks on 9.7 ppg, but struggles mightily from the floor (.330).
The Commodores were thoroughly overmatched on the road against one of the nation's elite teams earlier this week, as Florida held them to less than 27 percent field goal shooting (including 4-of-24 from 3-point range) en route to the 26-point decision. Despite the off-shooting night, Kedren Johnson was still impressive for the 'Dores, netting 15 points on 5-of-9 from the field. On the season, Vanderbilt plays lock-down defense, ranking third in the SEC in yielding a meager 59.9 ppg, but unfortunately it can't back up that production with consistent offense, as it pours in a league-low 59.5 ppg. Johnson paces the modest attack with 13.7 ppg on 41.7 percent shooting, and he is also the team leader in assists (3.8 apg) and steals (1.1 spg). Rod Odom (10.0 ppg) and Kevin Bright (8.7 ppg) have been far from consistent with their attempts, with each making less than 38 percent from the floor.
South Carolina got healthy in a hurry against a hapless Mississippi State squad on Wednesday, but now it heads back out on the road where it has won just one of nine matchups. Its last contest not withstanding, Vanderbilt has shown the ability to win with strong defense in recent weeks, and it will close out the regular season in style in front of its home fans.
Game Date and Time