South Carolina can’t miss, stuns Wildcats for second year in a row

Published 2:08 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Lamont Paris is still undefeated against Kentucky.

The second-year South Carolina coach improved to 2-0 against Kentucky after his Gamecocks rolled to a 79-62 win over the sixth-ranked Wildcats on  Tuesday night in Columbia, S.C.

Kentucky’s scoring output was its lowest of the season and came after the top-scoring team in the nation put up 105 points against Georgia on Saturday.

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The Wildcats fell to 14-4 overall and 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina (16-3, 4-2) improved to 10-1 at home after defeating Kentucky for the second straight season.

“South Carolina really played a physical, physical game and and were a little bit too much for us,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “(They were) bumping drivers and strong in the post and really physical. I guess people will watch that tape and say that’s how you got to play. We’ve got to protect ourselves somehow.”

It didn’t start out bad. Kentucky hit five straight shots on the way to a 21-16 lead midway through the first half. But South Carolina and its SEC-leading defense kicked in after that to close on a 17-4 run.

The Wildcats missed nine of their final 10 shots of the half and trailed 33-25 at the break – their lowest scoring half of the season.

Rob Dillingham led Kentucky with 16 points, scoring 11 of those in the first half. Antonio Reeves followed with 15, with 13 in the second half. Tre Mitchell scored all of his 13 points in the second half.

Kentucky struggled in all phases, especially on the defensive end. The Gamecocks connected on 11 shots from long range and missed just 13 shots on 29 attempts in the second half.

The Wildcats managed seven assists and scored only seven points in transition. Overall Kentucky made just three 3-pointers on 11 attempts, both season-low totals.

“They were going to battle us, they were going to try to punk us and we got punked,” Reeves said. “We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we got to do for this next game.”

Kentucky’s post players — Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonomir Ivisic and Ugonna Onyenso – combined for nine points. Ivisic scored 13 points in his debut against Georgia. He only managed three points in his second game.

Fans easily burst through the thin yellow ropes to rush the court and celebrate the latest high point in a surprising season. It should cost South Carolina a $100,000 fine from the SEC under league policy, but no one was concerned about that at the moment.

It’s the third straight loss at South Carolina for the Wildcats and fourth in their last seven meetings in the series.