Foul-plagued Gamecocks still power past Vanderbilt

Kris Freeman

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Vanderbilt connected on its first three baskets of the game on the road at South Carolina Saturday night, but recent shooting woes returned quickly in a 90-64 loss to the Gamecocks at Colonial Life Arena.

Sprinting out to a 7-6 lead for the first 1:34 of the game, Vanderbilt never took the advantage again. The Commodores (8-11, 0-6) suffered a 24 consecutive Southeastern Conference loss, tying the league mark established by Sewanee in 1938-40.

Saben Lee led both teams with 17 points, but shot just 5-of-14 from the field and 7-of-15 at the free-throw line. Freshmen Scotty Pippen Jr. (11) and Jordan Wright (10) were also in double figures. Vanderbilt shot 33 percent (19-57) from the field, including 16.7 percent from three (5-30) and 60 percent (21-35) from the line. The Commodores were 5-of-30 from three-point range.

Since losing leading scorer Aaron Nesmith to a season-ending injury after the opening conference game at Auburn, the Commodores have shot 15 percent from three in four games. Lee is now the team’s leading remaining scorer, but also played over 32 minutes for seven consecutive games. It was Pippen’s 13 double-digit scoring effort.

That wasn’t the only trend which continued, however. South Carolina (11-8, 3-3), plagued in four of its last five contests with at least 26 team fouls, had nine players with two fouls at the half and finished the game with 29 total fouls. Freshman Jalyn McCreary had a career-high 11 points, but left the game with eight minutes to play after committing his fourth foul for the fifth straight game.

South Carolina made up for the foul barrage by scorching the nets from the field to tie their season high of 90 points (Nov. 15 against Cleveland State). The Gamecocks connected on 54.1 percent of shots, including 7-of-18 from three, but only 70.8 percent at the line (17-24). There were as many fouls combined for both teams as made baskets (52), and 59 free throw attempts.

Five players hit double figures in scoring for South Carolina, including sophomore Justin Minaya, with his second career double-double with 14 points and 12 boards. Minaya last pulled off the feat in a season-opener against North Alabama. A.J. Lawson scored 14, and Alanzo Frink and Jair Bolden added 13 each.

As a result of playing its entire bench because of foul trouble and the extended lead in the second half, South Carolina eclipsed Vanderbilt 46-18 in bench points, and made the most of second chances and dominance inside with a 44-26 advantage in the paint.

South Carolina won the rebounding battle, 43-31, despite only a 17-16 advantage at the half. Leading 44-35 at the break, the Gamecocks extended the lead to its largest in the final 12 seconds when freshman Mike Green nailed a three in front of his bench for his first career points. The home-crowd favorite is from Myrtle Beach.


Vanderbilt travels to Rupp Arena on Wednesday to face Kentucky (15-4) at 5:30 p.m. CST. South Carolina plays at Arkansas (15-4), Wednesday at 7:30 CST.


Vanderbilt leads the overall series, 30-29. South Carolina has won three straight. South Carolina is 15-12 against Vanderbilt at home and the Commodores last win in Columbia was Jan. 19, 2013. South Carolina beat Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym in Nashville, 74-71, on Jan. 16, 2019.

The teams close the regular season in Nashville on March 7, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. on the SEC Network.


Vanderbilt (64) – Lee 17, Pippen Jr. 11, Wright 10, Rice 6, Disu 5, Obinna 5, Jankovic 3, Evans 3, Albert 2, Moyer 2. South Carolina (90) – Minaya 14, Lawson 14, Frink 13, Bolden 13, McCreary 11, Couisnard 7, Bryant 7, Hannibal 4, Green 3, Kotsar 2, Leveque 2.


Lee opened the game with a layup and then after a South Carolina answer, Disu splashed a three from the left corner for a 5-2 lead at 18:45 of the first. Then Jordan Wright sank a baseline jumper from 12 feet for a 7-4 lead, before Jermaine Couisnard powered inside for the first of his seven points.

The Gamecocks took the lead for the first time, and for good, at 17:18, when Minaya took it away from Wright at the scorers table and drove for the basket and the foul. South Carolina led 9-7 and then Lawson buried a three after Vanderbilt’s first miss from the field.

Back-to-back baskets cut it to one, as Pippen floated an alley-oop assist from the right wing to a hammer dunk from Lee, and then Keyshawn Bryant tried to return the favor and was called for an offensive foul on a slam attempt.

Vanderbilt continued to pass the ball through the shot clock and worked it inbounds three times, as Wright saved it twice and then Evans kicked a potential turnover into high gear for a pass to Wright inside. He was fouled and hit the free throws for a 12-11 score.

When the Gamecocks airballed a three, Maxwell Evans missed a triple in transition and Wright was called for a reach-around on the rebound. Lawson drove to extend the lead to three, but Braelee Albert got a freebee underneath when the South Carolina defender turned down court at 12:56 and he spun up for the layup. McCreary’s jumper made it 16-13, and the Gamecocks went on a 9-0 run.

Isaiah Rice made his first of two threes in the game to make it 23-16, but Minaya answered with one of his own to keep it at double digits.

With Vanderbilt consistently missing on the front end at the line, and committing a lane violation on a made toss, South Carolina extended the lead to its largest at 34-22 inside of six minutes. With Lee fouled and at the line, he made the first and Martin was called for a technical foul.

Vanderbilt couldn’t capitalize, as Wright missed one of two technical shots, and then Lee missed his second free throw.

Lee was fouled and made one of two with 9.2 seconds left, and South Carolina led 44-35 at the intermission after two point-blank misses at the buzzer.

Evans hit the first three of the second half to cut it to 45-38, his only points of the game, but Vanderbilt would not make another three until Oton Jankovich and Rice connected late in the game with it out of reach.

The lead got to 22 points with 7:49 left and fluctuated there until the three in the corner at the end of the game.