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MENS BASKETBALL


South Carolina 79, Kentucky 62

South Carolina 79, Kentucky 62

PETE IACOBELLI
ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Ta'Lon Cooper scored 20 points and Jacobi Wright had 14 with four 3-pointers as South Carolina pulled away in the second half and beat No. 6 Kentucky 79-62.

The Gamecocks (16-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) beat their highest-ranked opponent at home since taking down No. 1 Kentucky 68-62 14 years ago. In that game, South Carolina overcame future NBA All-Stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins for the victory.

In this one, they held the nation’s top scoring team that averaged more than 91 points to its lowest output of the season.

Fans easily burst through the thin yellow ropes to rush the court and celebrate the lastest high point in 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 (14-4, 4-2) and fourth in their last seven meetings in the series.

It sure didn’t look like the Wildcats would struggle in this one. Kentucky hit five straight shots on the way to a 21-16 lead midway through the opening period.

But South Carolina and its SEC-leading defense kicked in after that to close the period on a 17-4 run.

The Wildcats missed nine of their final 10 shots of the period and were held to their lowest scoring half of the season.

Antonio Reeves, Kentucky’s leading scorer at 19.6 points a game, shook off a 1-for-7 shooting first half with seven points early after halftime and the Wildcats were within 40-38 with 15:04 to play.

But the Gamecocks took off again on a 22-6 run to open an 18-point lead with less than eight minutes left.

Kentucky could not get within single digits the rest of the way.

The sold-out crowd — Colonial Life Arena seats 18,000 — was encouraged to wear black. The fans, including football coach Shane Beamer, yelled and screamed as time ticked down on the victory.

THE BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats had no answer when their shots didn’t fall, often leaving South Carolina players open near the basket for easy buckets or offensive rebounds. Kentucky shot just 3 of 11 on 3-pointers while giving up 10 long-range goals to South Carolina.

South Carolina: It may be time to take the Gamecocks and second-year coach Lamont Paris seriously. The team’s 13-1 start was its best in eight years, but they didn’t have the marquee wins to gain notice. They do now.

South Carolina athletics press release

January 23, 2024





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