COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Lamont Paris doesn't spend much time reveling in midseason accomplishments, even when his team is one of biggest surprises of the college basketball season.
Collin Boyles-Murray scored a career-high 31 points and the 15th-ranked Gamecocks (21-3, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) ran past Vanderbilt in the second half of a 75-60 victory — their 21st of the season after losing 21 games a year ago.
Paris said he's improved at celebrating achievements. “You've seen me dancing and stuff,” he joked.
“It's hard as a coach to spend much time at all thinking about achievements until they tell you to hang the uniforms up,” he said. “Then you look back and say, ‘Maybe that was really good.’"
And it's one that only looks to get better for a program picked last this fall in the SEC.
The Gamecocks have won seven straight and remain tied with No. 16 Alabama for first in the SEC. “We're proving a lot of people wrong,” Murray-Boyles said.
Murray-Boyles, the 6-foot-7 freshman, scored 12 of his points in a 24-10 second-half surge. He also had a monster block that brought the crowd to its feet.
Murray-Boyles chased down Vanderbilt guard Ezra Manjon, who had what looked like an open lane to the basket early in the second half. But Murray-Boyles pinned the shot against the backboard as the crowd went crazy.
“I felt all the energy from all" at the Colonial Life Arena, Murray-Boyles said of the ovation. “I appreciate every single bit of it.”
The Commodores (6-17, 1-9) entered the game in the bottom of the league in points per game and field-goal percentage.
But Vanderbilt used a patient approach to South Carolina's suffocating defense that got the better of Kentucky and Tennessee in the past three weeks. The Commodores often let the shot clock get inside of five seconds before finding a makeable shot.
Tyrin Lawrence had seven points, including an all-alone layup under the basket off an inbounds play, as Vanderbilt closed the half with a 14-6 run to lead 32-28 at the break before South Carolina took over.
“We were a step slow in the second half,” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said.
Murray-Boyles made 14 of 17 shots, his last one a rim-rattling dunk in the final minute. B.J. Mack hit five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points for the Gamecocks.
Lawrence led Vanderbilt with 15 points.
THE BIG PICTURE
Vanderbilt: The Commodores fell behind when their shots didn't fall after halftime. Vanderbilt shot close to 50% in the opening half but was just 6 of 16 (37.5 %) in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks already have improved by 10 victories in coach Lamont Paris’ first season from their 11-21 mark last season. They are ranked for the first time since 2017. What's next? How about an SEC title. The team picked last in the league in October is tied for the top spot with Alabama with a month left in the season.
This is not the first time Paris has turned a losing program into a winner. He lost 20 games in his second season at Chattanooga before winning 20 in Year 3. It came a year quicker with the Gamecocks. “It's good, but we're on a mission,” Paris said.
Vanderbilt returns home to play Texas A&M on Tuesday night.
South Carolina plays at No. 12 Auburn on Wednesday night.
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