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February 28, 2009

USC-Vanderbilt Hoops Extra: Big Men Quiet

GamecockCentral.com traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to cover the South Carolina-Vanderbilt men's basketball game.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Where did you go, Sam Muldrow?

In a 77-59 win over Kentucky three days ago, Muldrow soared for a career-high seven blocks among eight points and 10 rebounds. In a 96-83 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday, Muldrow was a no-show -- no points, one rebound and no blocks, plus fouling out.

It wasn't all Muldrow -- USC's interior defense collapsed from the start, allowing Commodores center A.J. Ogilvy a career-high 28 points. Dominique Archie scored seven points with six boards and blocked two shots while Mike Holmes had 12 points and seven rebounds, but deprived of the rangy Muldrow's gifts, the Gamecocks' D floundered.

A game after collecting a career-high 16 blocks, USC got three.

"Their bigs outplayed our bigs," coach Darrin Horn confirmed. "It wasn't even close."

Horn said after the Kentucky game that it wasn't a specific case of targeting weakside defense on the block, but just how the Wildcats tried to attack. They'd bounce the ball in to Patrick Patterson and USC would converge.

Patterson scored 28 points but left a sheaf of others in the arms of USC defenders. Half of those 16 blocks were on the center's shots.

Patterson said after the game that he should have pump-faked more or perhaps tried to throw the ball back out. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings and his staff apparently heard him.

"We were just trying to play our game," Stallings said. "If there was a man open on the floor at the back end, we wanted to make sure we took advantage of that."

The Commodores did what the Wildcats should have -- let their bigs work early and once USC adjusted, began dishing once they got the ball low. After Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor began the run, the Gamecocks began pressuring them. They simply threw back out to Jermaine Beal.

Beal responded with five 3-pointers among his career-high 27 points.

MR. BRIGHTSIDE: Guard Brandis Raley-Ross again proved his value, scoring 15 points. He finished behind Devan Downey (24) and Zam Fredrick (21).

Raley-Ross thwipped three 3-pointers and had a nice one-handed dunk, after he broke for the basket and received a long pass.

SHORT WEEK: The Gamecocks return to Columbia facing a slight change in their schedule. They won't play Wednesday because of Thursday's game hosting Tennessee. After that (7 p.m. tip), they'll have a short turnaround before having to be at Georgia at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Horn said the normal routine won't change too much. It's just the game's a day later.

STANDINGS: Despite the loss, USC (20-7, 9-5 SEC) can't fall below Vanderbilt (17-11, 6-8) in the SEC East. The Commodores are locked into a fifth- or sixth-place finish while USC will finish somewhere in the top four.

The Gamecocks could have assured themselves of finishing above Kentucky after the Wildcats lost to LSU on Saturday, but couldn't take advantage of that chance. Kentucky (8-6) will be tied with the loser of today's Florida-Tennessee game, while the winner will be tied with USC for the lead.

The Gamecocks split with the Gators this year and host Tennessee on Thursday. In the event of tying with Florida, USC would win the tiebreaker today because its 5-3 division record is better than the Gators' 4-4.

USC and Florida (Tennessee, Kentucky) each play two Eastern division opponents to finish the regular season.

LSU (13-1) clinched the regular-season championship outright.

KARNAK?: At least one media scribe didn't think Saturday's result meant that much on USC's end. The question, to Stallings:

"Did it feel good playing this well against a team obviously going to the NCAAs?"



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