COLUMBIA, S.C. — It has been said that, as Chris Silva goes, so goes South Carolina.
Silva scored a career-high 27 points and had eight rebounds and South Carolina beat Vanderbilt 71-60 on Saturday for its first Southeastern Conference win of the season.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin, who has been disappointed in his team’s play of late, was pleased.
“Obviously, we needed to figure out a way to win that game tonight,” Martin said. “We played with some of that enthusiasm today. Hopefully we can build on this thing.”
South Carolina (10-5, 1-2) outscored the Commodores by 13 after halftime, thanks mostly to Silva and guard Wesley Myers, who scored all of his 17 points in the second half.
Guard Frank Booker, normally one South Carolina’s leading scorers, scored just four points but made three steals and four defensive rebounds and took three key charges.
Vanderbilt, which led 28-26 at halftime, closed to 48-45 on Jeff Roberson’s free throws with 8:21 to play, but Silva made five straight free throws and the Gamecocks began to pull away, finishing with 10 free throws in the final 58 seconds.
It was a cold-shooting affair from the get-go. The Commodores made just 8 of 23 first-half field goals to South Carolina’s 10 of 28 and the teams combined for more fouls (20) than made field goals.
The Commodores (6-9, 1-2) hit just 8 of 29 long-range attempts and were a 19 of 54 overall.
Silva, who has had foul trouble early in the season, didn’t have that problem Saturday.
“I thought a big key in their last game was Silva getting in foul trouble,” said Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew. “When Silva is on the court, they are a completely different team than when he is off the court. He showed it tonight. He was clearly the best player out there.”
Saben Lee scored 17 points for Vanderbilt on 6-of-11 shooting, Matthew Fisher-Davis added 12 points and Djery Baptiste scored 10.
Myers, who has struggled running the point with teammates Hassani Gravvett and Kory Holden out with injuries, probably had his best game against Vanderbilt.
“Chris (Silva) and coach Frank (Martin), the whole game they challenged me,” Myers said. “That’s what really motivated me. Chris always kept my spirit up. He was pushing me to go, play hard and be aggressive.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks badly needed a win after losing their first two SEC games. With back-to-back road games against Alabama and Georgia up next, the team was in danger of dropping out of the league race early.
The team got boosts from two players that haven’t seen much action — sophomore Evan Hinson and center Jason Cudd.
Hinson, a tight end on the Gamecocks football team, made his first start against Vanderbilt, scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds. Martin said he started Hinson because he came to practice the day the football team returned from the Outback Bowl even though he wasn’t expected.
Cudd, who has seen little playing time, scored three points, pulled down three rebounds, blocked a shot and dished out an assist.
Vanderbilt: The loss was disappointing for a Vanderbilt squad that has struggled throughout the season but hoped to build on a win against Alabama in its last game. A strong outside shooting team, the Commodores never found a way to consistently convert on the offensive end against the Gamecocks defense.
Vanderbilt hosts nationally ranked Tennessee on Tuesday.
South Carolina travels to Alabama Tuesday.