Jan. 9, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The #22/20 South Carolina Gamecocks are 2-0 to start the SEC season for the first time since 2010, but had to overcome its biggest test of the season Saturday afternoon against Vanderbilt (8-7, 0-3 SEC). The team had to erase an eight-point deficit in the second half, but Sindarius Thornwell led the way again and hit a major career milestone while guiding the team to a 69-65 win over the Commodores.
Vanderbilt took hold of the lead in its first possession and would hold on for the first 28 minutes of action, starting the game on an 8-0 burst. After weathering the initial blow, the Gamecocks (15-0, 2-0 SEC) would play the Commodores even for the rest of the first half, never letting the lead grow into double figures.
Mindaugas Kacinas led the team with 10 points in the first half, which helped to counter a 13-point performance from Vandy’s Riley LaChance. South Carolina had a number of chances to take the lead over the final five minutes of the first half, but weren’t able to string together enough stops and scores to get over the hump. Both sides would shoot nearly identical percentages, but Vanderbilt’s 5-2 advantage in made 3-pointers helped give it a 38-35 halftime lead.
A quick 5-0 start out of the break from Vanderbilt put the comeback hopes on hold for Carolina, but the Gamecocks turned up the heat on defense and continued to chip away at the deficit. Their efforts would pay off with a jumper by Laimonas Chatkevicius that tied the game at 49 with 11:31 to go in regulation, followed by a jumper on the ensuing possession from PJ Dozier that gave the team its first lead of the day.
The `Dores would go ice cold from the field just six minutes into the second half, hitting just one field goal in 17 attempts in a stretch that spanned from the 14:08 mark until making two of four in the final 40 seconds when the game was already out of reach. South Carolina countered with an 8-of-18 success rate in that same period to take control, pushing its lead as high as seven in the final minutes of the game.
The Gamecocks looked to Sindarius Thornwell to lead them to victory, and the veteran guard would do that and more. With his first points of the second half, coming on a jumper at 12:51 on the clock, the junior passed 1,000 career points, becoming the 42nd player in program history to reach the milestone. He would not rest on that achievement, scoring a team-high 11 points in the half including a critical period in the final three minutes where he scored seven straight points on his own to keep the Carolina lead at two possessions.
Thornwell’s final two points would give the home side a 67-61 lead with just 36 seconds to play, and the Gamecocks were able to hold off any counter attacks and secure just the second win over Vanderbilt in the last eight meetings.
The Commodores hit a cold stretch of just one made field goal in 17 attempts in a time period that started at the 14:08 mark and lasted until there were just 49 seconds left in the game. South Carolina outscored them 20-9 in that span to take its first lead of the day at the 10:55 mark, a lead it would not relinquish.
Vanderbilt made just six field goals in the second half, shooting 22 percent overall and 0-of-9 on 3-pointers. After Riley LaChance scored 13 first-half points for the Commodores, he was held to just two on 1-of-6 field goals in 18 second-half minutes.
South Carolina continues SEC action when it travels to face Alabama on Wednesday, Jan. 13. That contest will tip at 9 p.m. ET with Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Joe Dean Jr. (analyst) on the call. The Crimson Tide holds a 25-15 advantage in the all-time series with South Carolina, however, each team won on its home court in two meetings last season.
- Today’s announced attendance of 15,055 is the most the Gamecocks have had this season in any neutral, away or home game. It was the highest attendance figure since drawing 18,000 for Kentucky on Jan. 24 last season.
- Vanderbilt ranked 14th in the NCAA in 3-point field goal percentage, at 41 percent, but were held to just 5-of-24 Saturday (20.8 percent).
- Carolina’s eight-point deficit was the most it had been behind so far this season.
- Despite committing two more turnovers in the game, South Carolina enjoyed an 18-9 advantage in points off turnovers.
- Now with 1,010 career points, Sindarius Thornwell is four points away from passing Dominique Archie on the all-time scoring list. Archie was the last Gamecock to reach the 1,000-point milestone, coming back in 2010.
TWEET OF THE GAME