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February 14, 2007NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Memo to Southeastern Conference coaches: Watch out for Derrick Byars when he feels "embarassed."
That's how Byars said he felt after his 3-of-13 shooting performance in Vandy's 27-point road loss to the Vols on Saturday. Commodore coach Kevin Stallings had a much-different description of Byars' play after Wednesday night's 78-68 win over South Carolina in Memorial Gym.
"You get on your horse and ride, and that's what we did. We just got on his back," said Stallings, referring to Byars after his 32-point, seven-rebound performance during which the senior went 11-of-15 from the floor.
"We don't have a defensive stopper and [Byars] really hurt us tonight," remarked Carolina coach Dave Odom. "He is definitely one of the best players in this conference and has a good chance to be an all-conference player."
Vanderbilt (17-8, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) was 11-of-24 from 3-point range and had three other scorers in double figures--Shan Foster and Alex Gordon with 14 each, and Dan Cage with 11.
South Carolina (12-12, 2-9) jumped out to a 12-4 lead behind the unlikely duo of Dominique Archie and Bryce Sheldon, who had 12 and 10 first-half points respectively.
The Commodores blanketed Tre' Kelley, the SEC's leading scorer in league games, by double-teaming him for most of the first half.
Byars carried a slow-starting Vanderbilt offense with 19 first-half points, 12 of those in a 30-13 Commodore run that gave Vandy a 34-25 lead.
But the Gamecocks' Kelley got free for two quick 3-pointers, then added a pair of free throws and a 2-pointer to cut the Vandy lead to 37-35 at halftime.
Vandy built the lead to 48-40 early in the second half, but the Gamecocks took a 57-55 lead on a layup by Brandon Wallace, who had a game-high 13 rebounds.
Byars followed with a 3 and Vandy never trailed again. Alex Gordon's two 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, the last one giving Vanderbilt a 66-61 lead, were key down the stretch as Carolina never got within five again.
Byars, who grabbed seven rebounds in 35 minutes, also helped slow Kelley late in the game. Carolina's point guard was 0-of-3 from the field and committed a pair of turnovers in the game's final 11:54, scoring on just two free throws in that stretch.
"Our fight, particularly in the second half and down the stretch, was in high gear," said Stallings, whose team out-scored USC 18-9 in the game's final 5:57.
The game marked Byars' seventh game of 20 or more points in conference play.
"Honestly, I've never been more ready to play a game than tonight," said Byars.
An announced crowd of 12,588 saw the Commodores snap a string of just two wins over Carolina in the last ten meetings in Nashville.
"The game wasn't pretty, but it's never pretty when you play South Carolina," said Stallings. "They play extremely well, and kept the tempo where they needed it to be."
Kelley had 21 points, Sheldon 18 and Archie 15 to lead the Gamecocks.