COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse is instilling many qualities into his first-year program, including accountability during an awful stretch of Southeastern Conference play.
The Commodores lost their SEC-record tying 24th straight league game in a 90-64 defeat by South Carolina on Saturday night.
“It's not a record that we're proud of," said Stackhouse, the longtime NBA star. “But we've got to own it.”
Justin Minaya had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead five South Carolina players in double figures.
Vanderbilt (8-11, 0-6 Southeastern Conference) matched the league's basketball mark for consecutive losses set by Sewanee from 1938-40.
Sewanee left the SEC after that season. Vanderbilt will look to avoid holding the dubious record alone when it goes to No. 15 Kentucky on Wednesday night.
The Commodores have lost 11 straight at Kentucky with their last win their coming in 2007.
Stackhouse said his players are working each practice to turn things around, no matter the obstacles ahead.
“For us, it's about trying to figure out how we can improve," he said. “These guys have aspirations beyond this season."
South Carolina (11-8, 3-3) won its third straight over Vanderbilt and for the third time in four SEC games after opening conference play 0-2.
Minaya also had four assists, two steals and a block.
“I just tried to come out and play with a lot of energy," said Minaya, a sophmore.
The Gamecocks, 10th in SEC field goal percentage coming in, used some on-target shooting to open a double-digit lead in the first half.
The Gamecocks made six of seven shots midway through the opening period to stretch a one-point lead into a 31-19 margin with less than seven minutes to the break.
Freshman Jalyn McCreary had three baskets during the burst to extend his perfect touch to seven straight over South Carolina's last four games. McCreary, who finished with 11 points, missed his first attempt of the second half to end the streak.
But the Gamecocks couldn't stop sending Vanderbilt to the free-throw line. South Carolina committed 18 fouls as the Commodores went 15-of-23 from the line the first 20 minutes. Vanderbilt shot just 12 free throws in the second half.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin was so frustrated he picked up a technical foul.
The Gamecocks built a 24-point lead in the second half as Vanderbilt could not keep up.
AJ Lawson also had 14 points for South Carolina.
Saben Lee had 17 points to lead Vanderbilt.
THE BIG PICTURE
Vanderbilt: Things don't look promising for the Commodores, who continue without the SEC's leading scorer Aaron Nesmith who is out indefinitely from a foot injury sustained earlier this month. Vanderbilt doesn't seem to have the firepower to keep up with most of the SEC.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks showed poise and hot shooting in handling an opponent they were expected to defeat. South Carolina shot 60% (18 of 30) to lead 44-35 at the break and kept growing the lead.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin believes Vanderbilt has the right leader in Stackhouse as it works to right itself in SEC play. Martin said Stackhouse's value in the NBA was not just as a high scorer, but as a coach on the floor able to teach the right techniques and attitudes to younger players. “He's cut out to guide that boat in the right direction," Martin said.
Vanderbilt has continued to struggle in its long-range shooting. The team made seven or more 3-pointers in 11 of its first 12 games. That's happened just once during SEC play.
Vanderbilt plays at Kentucky on Wednesday.
South Carolina plays at Arkansas on Wednesday night.
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