COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell had 19 points and eight rebounds and No. 22 South Carolina remained undefeated with a 69-65 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.
South Carolina (15-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) passed its first tough test of the season, taking its first lead on PJ Dozier’s floater with 10:54 left. Dozier then hit a reverse layup as the rare near sellout crowd at Colonial Life Center roared.
Dozier scored seven of his nine points over the next 5 minutes and the Gamecocks held off Vanderbilt (8-7, 0-3) with good defense. The Commodores missed 19 of their last 22 shots.
South Carolina and SMU are the only unbeaten teams left in Division I. South Carolina has only reached 15 wins in three of its past 10 seasons.
Riley Lachance and Wade Baldwin IV each had 13 points for Vanderbilt.
The Commodores built an 8-0 lead less than 2 minutes in as Luke Kornet hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Damien Jones had a putback.
The deficit was the largest South Carolina had faced all season. The Gamecocks also trailed for 19:45 of the first half, which was more time than they had been behind in any game.
But South Carolina kept it close. Five times the Gamecocks were down one and failed to take the lead.
Once South Carolina took over, though, Vanderbilt couldn’t respond. Nolan Cressler fouled out with 7:55 left and Jones got his fifth foul with 6:34 to go. Baldwin also fouled out at the end as the Commodores sent South Carolina to the line.
Free throws kept Vanderbilt in it. The Commodores made 11 foul shots during the final 14 minutes.
Vanderbilt: Kornet returned to the starting lineup for the Commodores for the first time since injuring his knee in practice Dec. 8. He scored eight points. … Vanderbilt was picked to finish second in the SEC, but has started 0-3 in the league for the first time since 2013.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ 15-0 start is their best since the 1933-34 season. That team also shares South Carolina’s longest winning streak of 17 games with the 1969-70 team that went undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference before losing in the tournament. … This is only the third time in 25 SEC seasons the Gamecocks have started with two league wins.
Vanderbilt hosts Auburn on Tuesday night.
South Carolina travels to Alabama on Wednesday night.