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January 10, 2013
The free throws weren't there like they were the last time.
Eighteenth-ranked South Carolina overwhelmed Vanderbilt 64-48 on Thursday to bring the Gamecocks above .500 in the SEC for the first time this season, and break the Commodores' nine-game winning streak. USC, which made 32-of-50 free throws in its last game, was a pedestrian 11-of-22 on Thursday, but the way its defense again locked down on Vanderbilt's guard-heavy rotation, it didn't need to be even halfway decent from the line.
The Commodores, as they were last year, are an outstanding 3-point shooting team that can't get any room to shoot against the Gamecocks. They made two on Thursday out of seven tries, bringing their three-game total over the past two seasons to 6-of-30.
"We lock into the game plan," USC coach Dawn Staley said. "We plant the seed very early on -- they need to hit 3s to win. They're a team that relies on those 3-point shots and rightfully so, because they have the personnel to do that. If they're going to beat us, they have to two us, rather than three us."
Vanderbilt (12-4, 2-1 SEC) had been averaging nearly six 3-pointers per game and led the league with a 37 percent shooting clip. The Gamecocks (14-2, 2-1) paid no heed, unleashing their SEC top-ranked scoring defense from the outset.
After a brief Vanderbilt surge, USC leaped in front and kept padding the lead. The Gamecocks were up 21-9 with 13 minutes gone, and never had to sweat afterward.
The Commodores, knocked out of their 3-point game, had to start going inside. That plan went south when Tiffany Clarke, second in the SEC in field-goal percentage, picked up two quick fouls.
"I think they do such a good job being physical, making so much contact with you," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "Our timing's off because they pressure the basketball. They get you off your route. Tiff got in early foul trouble and she hasn't in a long time. We needed her scoring inside."
The Commodores couldn't get it. Every entry pass was contested and every shot was knocked around. Had it not been for a lot of happy whistles, USC would have finished with a lot more of the seven blocks and seven steals that were officially recorded.
With the defense on its game, the offense shed its shackles and began flowing. The Gamecocks only had two in double figures, led by Aleighsa Welch with 13 points, but got another boost from a perhaps unexpected source.
Senior Sancheon White has often been the "other" on the floor. She starts because she knows what she's doing, but is never the first or second offensive option and isn't the defender that an offense circles on the game plan.
That's being thrown out, rather quickly. White has cannonballed into conference play and was all over the floor on Thursday, recording eight rebounds with two assists, three blocks and three steals.
"I think it's a lot to do with being my second year here," White said. "I know what the coaches expect, and they know what to expect of me. I try to lock in every day."
"Sancheon, if we had a game ball, she would have gotten the game ball," Staley said. "She has taken the challenge of defending and shutting down our opponent's best offensive player. She's the quickest thing out there."
White also added five points and Ieasia Walker had 12. Ashley Bruner and Elem Ibiam had nine points each.
The Gamecocks shot 48.1 percent and showed that their offense can fill up the hoop, if need be. Now to keep a two-game winning streak going into a showdown with No. 13 Georgia on Sunday.
"We came out with a lot of energy, clicking on all cylinders," Welch said. "You get those first couple of shots to fall, it flows into the rest of the team. We were able to get that through the entire game, which has been a problem for us this season."
Team SEC Overall
Kentucky 3-0 15-1
Tennessee 3-0 12-3
Auburn 2-1 13-3
Florida 2-1 13-4
Georgia 2-1 14-2
South Carolina 2-1 14-2
Texas A&M 2-1 12-5
Vanderbilt 2-1 12-4
Arkansas 1-2 13-3
LSU 1-2 10-6
Missouri 1-2 12-5
Alabama 0-3 10-6
Mississippi State 0-3 8-8
Ole Miss 0-3 7-9
Georgia 95, Alabama 83
Arkansas 63, LSU 54
Auburn 76, Ole Miss 52
Florida 61, Mississippi State 55
Kentucky 65, Texas A&M 62
Tennessee 84, Missouri 39
South Carolina 64, Vanderbilt 48
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