7:30 PM ET, February 14, 2004
Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina's Michael Boynton Jr. knew that if a spider couldn't stop him, Vanderbilt had no chance.Boynton, playing with an open wound from a surgically removed abscess on his right calf, had a career-best five 3-pointers for all 15 of his points and the Gamecocks (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) ended a two-game losing streak with an 82-75 victory Saturday night.Early this week, Boynton was bitten by an insect -- most likely a spider, team doctors and coach Dave Odom said. The annoyance turned into a swollen, ugly, pus-filled distraction that made it painful to step, let alone play basketball in the Southeastern Conference.After losing to Mississippi State on Wednesday night, Boynton had the abscess surgically removed and missed practice Thursday -- opening himself up to the ridicule of his teammates."You're going to miss practice," Howell told him, "because of a mosquito bite?"Boynton just laughed. "They call me all kinds of things," he said.Odom might let Boynton miss all the workouts he wants if he comes through like this.Boynton swished his first three 3-pointers as the Gamecocks (20-5, 7-4 SEC) broke on top 32-16. Then, after Vanderbilt (15-6, 4-6) cut the margin to 39-32, the senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., struck for another behind the arc and the lead grew from there."Mike Boynton's five 3s didn't hurt any," Odom said.The Commodores cut the 21-point margin to 82-75 with 8.6 seconds to go, but went on to lose their fifth straight to the Gamecocks and 14th straight SEC road game.Boynton fouled out with 4:52 to go as the Colonial Center crowd chanted his name.That didn't seem so certain the past few days when Boynton had to gingerly walk to training sessions or sit while his teammates were scrimmaging. When he first noticed the bump, Boynton thought it was just a mosquito sting. The next day, he woke up his swollen calf and couldn't push off well as he played in a Wednesday night overtime loss to the Bulldogs.He had the procedure following the game and Odom wasn't sure how it might affect Boynton's play. Turns out he didn't have to worry about his "Spiderman.""It seemed like anytime they made a run, somebody would make a basket to calm the waters a little," Odom said.Boynton has some healing to do. He's got a hole the size of quarter in his calf and must change the dressing several times a day."It's real aggravating more than anything," Boynton said.Howell had 17 points and 12 rebounds, his second straight double-double, for South Carolina, while freshman Tre Kelley had a career-high 16 points.Matt Freije led Vanderbilt with 16 points but was just 5-for-13 from the field, including 0-for-4 on 3s."We were soundly beaten and very much outplayed tonight," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.South Carolina reached 20 wins for the second time in coach Dave Odom's three seasons. However, it was the first time the Gamecocks did it during the regular season since 1997-98. That was also their last NCAA tournament appearance, something that looked a little more uncertain after they lost consecutive heartbreakers to No. 8 Kentucky (65-64) and No. 6 Mississippi State (79-75, OT).Still, Odom's not counting on anything right now."Twenty used to be a magic number," he said. "In all honesty, if you're talking about does that make it a successful season? No. Does that mean you get in the NCAA tournament? No. ... It's not a magic number anymore."On Jan. 28, South Carolina's Renaldo Balkman and Vandy's Corey Smith were thrown out -- and subsequently suspended -- for a baseline scuffle in the Gamecocks' 57-55 victory.The fans had fun booing the Vanderbilt forward and the arena filled with "air ball" when Smith missed everything.