NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Maxwell Evans carried the Commodores in the first half and Saben Lee took over in the second as Vanderbilt cruised past South Carolina 83-74 on Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium.
The Commodores (11-20, 3-15 SEC) won back-to-back games for the first time since December and go into next week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament will plenty of momentum. Vandy faces Arkansas, Missouri or Ole Miss at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Evans finished with 20 – 15 in the first half – while Lee’s poured in 14 of his 19 in the second stanza. Scotty Pippen finished as Vandy’s leading scorer with 21 to go along with four assists and was 15 of 16 From the line. Ejike Obinna collected 12 rebounds and Dylan Disu chipped in 14 points.
South Carolina (18-13, 10-8 SEC) finished 1 of 13 from 3 and 0-for-4 from long range in the second half.
Vanderbilt hit an early funk offensively Saturday while it went more than six minutes without a made field goal, yet somehow was tied 14-13 on an Evans three-point play. South Carolina responded swiftly with a 9-0 run to go ahead 22-14 with 8:07 to go in the half – that forced a Vandy timeout.
The Gamecocks built a nine-point lead with 5:06 to go in the half after Keyshawn Bryant’s layup made it 30-21. Maik Kotsar’s elbow jumper a couple minutes later ballooned the advantage to 34-24.
Disu scored five straight to flip momentum and then Evans drained a 3 from the left wing cutting the deficit to 34-32 and forcing a South Carolina timeout. The Commodores would have to settle being down 35-33 at the break.
Lee was held to just five points on 1 of 7 shooting and Vanderbilt finished just 32 percent from the field as a team. The Gamecocks scored 22 of their 35 points from inside the paint and were 1-for-9 from 3.
Vanderbilt opened the second half hot and went on a 15-6 run. An Evans 3 was followed by a Lee-from-Pippen dunks, Braelee Albert triple and Pippen layup making the lead 48-41 for the home team.
The Commodores started 6-for-6 from the field in the first four minutes of the period.
Back-to-back Lee layups allowed Vanderbilt to enjoy a 62-52 lead with 9:14 to play. That’s where the margin stayed for most of the second half before the Gamecocks made a late run.
South Carolina scratched back to within 70-66 with 2 1/2 to go, but Pippen’s layup on the ensuing possession breaking the press restored order. Vanderbilt made its free throws from there to hold on for the victory.
Jermaine Couisnard had 18 to lead South Carolina.
• Lee (1,298) needs 13 points to pass Barry Booker (1,310) for 26th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list. Damian Jones (1,313) is 25th.
• Lee’s 554 points this season are the sixth-most in a single season by a junior in Vanderbilt history. Jeff Fosnes is fifth having scored 575 in 1975.
• Vandy is now 10-2 this season when leading with at the 5-minute mark, 11-2 when leading a the 2-minute mark and 11-6 when scoring at least 70 points
• The Commodores lead the series with South Carolina 31-29 and 18-12 in games played at Vanderbilt.
• Vanderbilt redshirt-junior Matthew Moyer has missed six straight games due to a shoulder injury.
• The Commodores played their 20th home game of the season Saturday, the most ever by a Vanderbilt team at Memorial Gymnasium.
• Attendance on Saturday was announced as 10,852 Giving Vanderbilt an average of 9,374 for the 2019-20 season.