Vanderbilt's Jermaine Beal made only one basket on the day. But he made it count.
With Vanderbilt down by one with six seconds to play, Beal drove the distance of the court and sank a fadeaway layup with .06 seconds to play, giving the Commodores a 66-65 win over South Carolina in Columbia. VU is now 20-4 and 5-4 in the Southeastern Conference, while USC falls to 11-11 and 3-5.
The two SEC East foes had played a nip-and-tuck game from the opening tipoff, in a game that saw 13 lead changes, including 10 in the game's final 10 minutes.
The Commodores barely survived a mystifying 1-of-6 performance at the line by their best free throw shooter, Andrew Ogilvy. The freshman from Australia came into the game hitting 80 percent from the charity stripe, but missed the front end of two 1-and-1s with under a minute to play. Vanderbilt came into the game as the SEC's leading free throw shooting team, but was just 5-10 from the line.
Ogilvy, however, contributed a career-high five assists to go with 15 points and eight rebounds. Senior wing Shan Foster led Vanderbilt with 21 points and eight rebounds, joining Ogilvy as VU's only double digit scorers.
South Carolina was led by Evaldas Baniulis' 19 points, hitting all but one of his eight shots from the field -- including all five 3-pointers. Zam Fredrick added 14 points, and Dwayne Day and Devin Downey both had 10.
The game's final two minutes featured a series of pressure-packed shots that pushed each team back into the lead. A Baniulis 3-pointer at the 1:49 mark put Carolina up 63-61. After trading scoreless possessions, Foster then drained a long 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to push Vandy back up, 64-63.
A turnover by Frederick was followed by four Carolina fouls over their next five possessions. Ogilvy's two missed one-and-ones set the stage for the final, furious finish.
With the shot clock off, Downey took the ball the length of the court, driving past a distracted Alex Gordon. Downey sank a reverse lay-up with six seconds put South Carolina up by one.
After Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings called a time out, Beal drove the distance of the court for the game-winning shot just before the buzzer.
"Six seconds is more than enough," said Stallings. "You really only need four to get down there. We had Shan in one corner and Alex in the other, and their two guards got confused about who was guarding whom. Their indecision gave him a lane and he took it down and made the shot.
"We played with a great deal of energy and passion today. When you finish your sixth road game in eight games, that's taxing. Our guys really gutted it out."
The closeness of the game was certainly reflected in the shooting statistics. Vanderbilt shot 26-56 from the field for 46 percent, while Carolina -- which played four guards for much of the game -- was a nearly identical 25-55.
VU was 9-24 from 3, while SC was 9-of-25, including Baniulis' perfect performance.
"We have had unbelievable games with South Carolina," said Stallings, who has swept USC two years in a row. "We really feel good about winning this one, and felt so bad for A.J. It was great that we were able to bail him out.
"(Foster) made a couple of big shots, but that was a deep 3 (with 50 seconds left) — and that's what big time players do. (Foster and Ogilvy) both came out and played their best game in awhile."
Downey, who transferred to South Carolina from Cincinnati last year, had had some of his best games against Vanderbilt. The lightning-quick point guard scored 22 points and seven assists against Vanderbilt in their first match-up of the season on January 9 in Nashville.
Downey came into the game tied for the SEC scoring lead at nearly 20 points per game, but was held scoreless in the first half.
"He's averaging 22," said Stallings, "and Alex (Gordon) was terrific on him. That shot he made (with six seconds left) was an incredibly difficult shot."
After losing their first four SEC road games, Vanderbilt has now won it's last two. The Commodores defeated Georgia on Wednesday, 67-59. After beginning their SEC schedule playing six of their first nine games on the road, the Commodores now return to Nashville for four consecutive home games against Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, respectively.
"A lot of people were writing us off," said Stallings. "It's never really very good to jump off the ship. We've got a good group. I don't know that we're a great team, but we're a good team."
Vanderbilt's rematch with Kentucky is slated for am 8:00 CST tip-off on Tuesday evening.