3:00 PM ET, January 15, 2006
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Dee Davis had no doubt that Vanderbilt (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) teammate Carla Thomas would have a big impact against South Carolina.After a half on the bench, Thomas proved Davis right.Thomas scored all of her 16 points in the second half to lift Vanderbilt (13-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) to a 67-59 win over the Gamecocks on Sunday. Thomas got two fouls less than four minutes into the game and sat until the second half."We knew Carla was going to score. She's game time," Davis said.Against the Gamecocks, that meant Thomas taking crisp passes from Davis and turning them into easy buckets. Thomas quickly got on the scoreboard after halftime with two inside shots and a three-point play that put the Commodores up 42-36 with 14:58 remaining.Then, after South Carolina tied things at 42, Thomas hit three consecutive short jumpers to close out an 18-7 run that put Vanderbilt ahead 60-49 with 1:22 to go.Davis added 15 points -- 10 of those in the first half -- for Vanderbilt, which has won five of its last six games.South Carolina (9-7) continued its struggles in the SEC, starting 0-4 in the league for the third straight season.After trailing 32-25 at halftime, the Gamecocks seemed to find their game in the second half. Stacy Booker hit a 3-pointer, then Ilona Burgrova, Lakesha Tolliver and Iva Sliskovic made baskets to tie the game midway through the period.South Carolina, though, could not continue its surge. The Gamecocks had their chances to go in front, but missed four shots and committed two turnovers during the key stretch.Another 3-pointer by Booker drew South Carolina to 49-47 with 7:06 to go. However, Davis kept Vanderbilt's charge going with two foul shots. Then reserve Christina Wirth had a long-range basket, and Thomas' three scores put the game away.Davis says the 6-foot-3 Thomas gives Vanderbilt "post dominance.""We can count on her to score, block shots and be a leader on the floor as well," Davis said. "It's good to have her in the paint. You don't have to worry about getting beat and somebody scoring on you. She's just a good presence on the inside."Thomas also had seven rebounds while Davis finished with six assists.Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said with Thomas on the bench early, Davis took control with some quick, easy driving baskets. After Thomas returned, the Commodores' inside game flourished."I like that. It's been three games where we really depend on those two juniors," Balcomb said of Thomas and Davis. "We have a lot of new people on the floor in key situations and we have to count on Dee and Carla. I like how they've played in the first three (SEC) games."Burgrova had 15 points to lead the Gamecocks. She was on the defensive end several times as Thomas went to the hoop."She is really good," Burgrova, a native of the Czech Republic, said. "It is tough to guard her."South Carolina coach Susan Walvius thought her team had a chance to seize momentum by making a play or two to go in front early in the second half with the score tied."You have opportunities and you turn the ball over ... we're better than that," Walvius said. "One thing our team is working to understand is a little more of a sense of urgency, a little more aggressiveness without hurrying."South Carolina stayed close to Vanderbilt early on before a shooting funk put the Gamecocks behind.Melanie Johnson's basket drew South Carolina to 17-16 with 9:05 remaining. The Gamecocks then went nearly six minutes without a bucket as Vanderbilt went on an 11-1 run. Davis had two baskets and Caroline Williams hit her third 3 of the half in the charge.Johnson's play was the only thing that kept the Gamecocks from being down even further. She scored the team's final six points to keep the deficit in the single digits.
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