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Jermaine Beal pulls back for the game-winning shot with 0.6 seconds remaining to lift Vanderbilt to a thrilling 66-65 victory at South Carolina Saturday.
(AP Photo/Brett Flashnick)


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Down by one with six seconds left, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings told Jermaine Beal to drive the ball until he was stopped.

No one stepped in front of Beal until he was a few feet away from the basket and his short fadeaway jumper with 0.6 seconds left gave the No. 23 Commodores a 66-65 win over South Carolina on Saturday.

It was the sophomore’s only basket of the game.

“I didn’t know who was guarding me, and no one showed up so I drove it down and the shot was there,” Beal said.

It was the last of four lead changes in the final two minutes and gave Vanderbilt (20-4, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) its fourth straight win over the Gamecocks. The Commodores have also reached 20 wins faster than any previous Vanderbilt team.

Beal’s winning points came after Devan Downey’s driving reverse lay-up with six seconds to go put South Carolina (11-11, 3-5) ahead.

“They made one more big play than we did at the right time,” Gamecocks coach Dave Odom said.

Beal made things a lot easier for teammate Andrew Ogilvy, who missed the front ends of 1-in-1s twice in the final minute. The freshman is Vanderbilt’s leading free throw shooter at 79.5 percent, but went 1-for-6 on Saturday.

Before Beal’s winner, it was Shan Foster who was bailing out the Commodores.

His 3-pointer with 50 seconds to go put Vanderbilt up 64-63.

But that wasn’t the only key three-pointer Foster made. Twice in the second half when the game appeared to be slipping away from the Commodores, Foster stepped up. His 3-pointer from the corner with 11:20 to go stopped an 8-2 Gamecocks run to tie the game at 46.

Five minutes later, Foster, the SEC’s leading 3-pointer shooter at 45.6 percent, buried another one behind the arc to answer five straight South Carolina points and tie the game at 54.

“I knew I was going to start making them eventually, and once they started falling, I felt good,” said Foster, who went 8-for-12 from the field after missing his first four shots.

Foster led Vanderbilt with 21 points, while Ogilvy added 15 points and eight rebounds.

South Carolina was led by Evaldas Baniulis’ 19 points. Zam Fredrick added 14 points, but turned the ball over and badly missed a 3-pointer in the final minute.

The Commodores held Downey, tied for the SEC lead in scoring at 19.8 points a game, to just 10 points, all in the second half.

Stallings praised his team’s defense on Downey in both halves. “He just started making tough shots,” the coach said.

After Vanderbilt led for most of the first 30 minutes, the teams traded the lead 10 times in the final 10 minutes.

The Commodores led for most of the first half, but never got up more than seven.

Trailing 43-40, South Carolina scored six straight points to take its first lead since early in the game. Mike Holmes had a dunk, and Dwayne Day’s short jumper gave the Gamecocks the lead. Then Downey scored his first points of the game on a driving layup with just under 12 minutes to go, setting up he frenetic finish.

The difference was one final shot. Vanderbilt was 26-of-56 from the field, while South Carolina made 25 of its 55 shots.