(Story by Justin Mathis) For about 28 minutes of Wednesday night’s SEC contest against tenth-ranked Kentucky, the South Carolina Gamecocks were struggling to find consistency on the offensive end of the floor after some early shooting woes.
In the end, Jermaine Couisnard dribbled down the court with less than five seconds left, launched a 30 footer, and banked it home as time expired, sending the home crowd into a frenzy as the Gamecocks knocked off the Wildcats 81-78.
“Frank (Martin) told me that if they score… try to get downhill,” Couisnard recalled. “Alonzo (Frink) set a little screen for me. I just drove and pulled up (for the shot). I really didn’t know it was going in. I felt like I had shot an air ball, to be honest. I saw it hit the top of the backboard is how I knew it was going in.”
A ferocious put-back dunk off a missed jumper by Keyshawn Bryant with 12:59 left provided a spark for the host Gamecocks. South Carolina mounted a late rally, taking the lead for the first time, 71-70 with 3:41 remaining.
“I missed a box out on (Bryant),” Kentucky forward Nick Sestina said. “He got an offensive rebound and put-back dunk. That shifted momentum a little bit and the crowd got into (the game). They outrebounded us… They outhustled us. They were more physical than us and that was the outcome.”
Kentucky had control of the game for the most part, cutting off several drives to the baskets by South Carolina, which resulted in either a missed shot or a turnover. At the 16:34 mark of the second half, the Wildcats had established a 46-32 lead over the Gamecocks.
“I thought we had them when it was 14 (points),” Kentucky head coach John Calipari stated. “‘Let’s get this to 20’, and (South Carolina) didn’t stop. They deserved to win the game. It would’ve been a shame if we had somehow thrown one in and won the game. Frank did a great job (coaching) in this game.”
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin was glad to see the hard work from his team pay dividends in the form of their first conference win this season.
“I’m extremely happy that our guys got rewarded with the win,” Martin stated. “We’ve played pretty good for a while… Jermaine is becoming the heartbeat of our team. A lot of credit to our guys that we can play a team as great as Kentucky and even though we got down, have the courage to keep fighting and winning.”
Couisnard paced South Carolina with a game-high 20 points. Three more Gamecocks finished in double figures as Bryant chipped in with 15 points, followed by Justin Minaya with 11 and TJ Moss with 10.
Frank Martin postgame press conference
Jermaine Couisnard and Keyshawn Bryant take questions from the media
Kentucky coach John Calipari postgame press conference