NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Kevin Stallings had been telling his 13th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores to push the ball inside the past two days. At halftime against South Carolina, they needed a reminder.
A.J. Ogilvy responded.
Ogilvy scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, and Vanderbilt beat the Gamecocks 80-73 on Wednesday night, showing no signs of slowing down just because it’s time for Southeastern Conference play.
“A.J., he’s just a monster,” Vanderbilt guard Alex Gordon said of Ogilvy.
Shan Foster and Gordon both added 13 points for the Commodores (16-0, 1-0), who stretched their best start ever and the school’s longest winning streak by beating the Gamecocks (8-7, 0-1) for the fourth straight time.
“I’m proud of our team,” Stallings said. “We survived.”
South Carolina made the Commodores work for this victory, swapping the lead eight times with four ties in the second half alone. The Gamecocks harassed Vanderbilt into 17 turnovers, 10 of those on steals.
Gamecocks coach Dave Odom could only compliment a team that he thinks could be Stallings’ best.
“It’s not necessarily because they’re 16-0,” he said. “His team plays very, very good basketball. They play team basketball. It’s fun to watch on tape if you don’t have to play them.”
Foster, the SEC’s leading scorer, followed up a season-high 32 points against Massachusetts last weekend with his worst scoring performance. He was 4-of-11 from the field, including 2-of-9 from 3-point range.
Ogilvy, second to Foster in the league in scoring, made up the difference. He was 7-of-10 from the field in the second half and finished 7-of-8 at the free throw line.
Devan Downey led South Carolina with 22 points, while Zam Fredrick added 21 and Dwayne Day had 14.
Guard Brandis Raley-Ross of the Gamecocks played in his first game since spraining his left knee in practice Dec. 29 when he landed awkwardly from a dunk. The nation’s most accurate 3-point shooter at 65.2 percent didn’t take a shot until 13:46 left in the game, and he missed.
That was the only shot he would take.
Vanderbilt outrebounded (41-33) and outshot the Gamecocks, especially at the free throw line where the Commodores went 15-of-17—all in the second half. South Carolina hit all four it attempted.
“They do go inside, and you’re going to foul them more,” Odom said. “But we’ve got to figure out a way to get inside and get some fouls ourselves because we do shoot free throws pretty well.”
The Commodores led 35-30 at halftime and opened the second half with Foster and Ogilvy hitting two free throws each for their biggest lead.
The Gamecocks answered with 10 straight points capped by Day’s 3-pointer to take the lead at 40-39 with 16:46 to go. But they lost Mike Holmes when he was called for a foul, then picked up his fifth on a technical for an outburst with 11:35 left.
Odom said he didn’t think what Holmes said was that bad.
“By the rule, it certainly was deserving of a technical,” Odom said.
The Commodores built the lead to 67-58 on a 3-pointer by Alan Metcalfe with 5:57 remaining.
Downey capped an 11-4 spurt with a bucket at 1:45 to pull South Carolina within 71-69. Gordon answered with a 3 for Vandy, then Ross Neltner blocked a jumper by Downey with about a minute left. Vandy hit its final six free throws to hold onto the victory.
Foster became Vandy’s all-time leading 3-point shooter less than 3 minutes into the game, hitting his 297th from the right corner for an 8-5 lead with 17:28 to go. Second to Raley-Ross in 3-point shooting, Foster cooled off after that.
He credited South Carolina with guarding him well.
“Their defensive scheme was great and executed well. But we have great teammates on this team that step up in times of struggle on a night when we weren’t shooting the ball as good as we have in the past … we were able to get the win,” Foster said.
Downey, who had 18 points in leading Cincinnati over Vanderbilt here on Dec. 10, 2005, hit four of his first six shots and had 14 in the first half. Fredrick, the transfer from Georgia Tech, added 11.
But they got little help with Day the only other teammate to score in the first half. Day’s 3-pointer put South Carolina ahead 22-21, then Jermaine Beal answered with a 3 to start a 9-0 spurt. But he had to hit a 3 just before time expired for a 35-30 lead.