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Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2004 12:19 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(22) South Carolina 82, Vanderbilt 75

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Perhaps Michael Boynton Jr. had his spider sense working for South Carolina.

Boynton nailed a career-high five 3-pointers to lead the 22nd-ranked Gamecocks to an 82-75 victory over Vanderbilt, completing a season sweep of their Southeastern Conference rivals.

Boynton had an abscess removed from his right calf after Wednesday's loss to Mississippi State. Coach Dave Odom said the abscess was the result of a spider bite.

Whatever the cause, the senior guard responded with his highest output since scoring 21 points in a win over South Carolina State on December 22. Boynton made his first three shots as South Carolina (20-5, 7-4 SEC East) took an early 16-8 lead.

Boynton had four 3-pointers in the first half before fouling out in the second. Rolando Howell collected 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead South Carolina, which avoided a third straight loss after tight setbacks to SEC division leaders Kentucky and Mississippi State.

"It was an excellent 35 minutes of basketball on our part," Odom said. "Vanderbilt played well down the stretch and maybe got us somewhat fatigued at the end. We did what we had to offensively. I'm very proud of how our team responded."

Vanderbilt (15-6, 4-6) fell to 0-5 on the road in SEC play, hampering its chances at an NCAA Tournament at-large berth. The Commodores have lost seven of the last eight matchups with the Gamecocks.

The Commodores got another poor effort on the road from preseason SEC Player of the Year Matt Freije, who scored 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Freije is shooting just 37 percent (25-of-68) during Vanderbilt's road slide.

"Tonight we got soundly beaten and USC outplayed us," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "They were on top of their game and the first 30 minutes, they played really well."

The Gamecocks reached the 20-win mark for the second time in three seasons under Odom and moved closer to their first NCAA Tournament at-large berth since 1998.

"Twenty wins used to be a magic number, but I don't think it is anymore," Odom said. "In all honesty, that doesn't mean that you've had a successful season or that you're going to the NCAA Tournament."

South Carolina led by as many as 16 points in the first half and freshman Tre Kelley's basket at the buzzer established a 46-32 halftime bulge. Josh Gonner's basket opened the Gamecocks' largest cushion at 60-39 with 15:15 left.

The lead was still 74-55 after two free throws by Renaldo Balkman with 2:45 to go. The Commodores used a huge charge to make the final score respectable.

Kelley scored a season-high 16 points off the bench for South Carolina, which converted 11 offensive rebounds into 20 points.


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