USC fans packed the Colonial Life Arena Saturday night in hopes of a repeat of last season’s upset of then #1 ranked Kentucky, and of course, to cheer on football coach Steve Spurrier and some of his players who were being honored at halftime.
The Wildcats, who handed the Gamecock football team one of its losses last season, made sure there was no post game celebration for Gamecock fans this time as they held on for a 67-58 win before 18,000 fans at the Colonial Life Arena .
Kentucky took control of the game about five minutes in and USC never really recovered. With the score tied at 10, the Wildcats outscored the Gamecocks 12-2 over the next five minutes. They Cats maintained a six to eleven point lead the rest of the half and took a ten point lead at 36-26 into intermission thanks to a basket at the buzzer by Darius Miller.
USC played much of the first 20 minutes without leading scorer Bruce Ellington who picked up two fouls by the ten minute mark and sat the rest of the half. Things got worse for Ellington early in the second half as he picked up two more quick fouls, including a technical, and watched most of the action from the bench.
Kentucky led by 18 at 53-35 midway thru the second half. USC made a brief run to get back to within a 12 but the Wildcats responded to get the lead back up to 16.
Kentucky maintained a comfortable lead until the Gamecocks went on a furious run in the final four minutes. The game went from 61-45 to 61-56 during that span. But Daron Lamb hit four straight free throws around two missed jumpers by Ellington and that was enough for the Wildcats to hold off the Gamecocks.
Sam Muldrow led the Gamecocks with 23 points, tieing his career high. He also had 13 rebounds for his 5th double-double of the season. He was the only Gamecock to score in double figues. The Gamecocks shot just 33% for the game and were only 3-18 from three point range. Brandon Knight led UK with 23 points.
The loss drops USC to 3-2 in the SEC and out of a first place tie with Florida for the lead in the East. The Gamecocks are 12-6 overall. Kentucky improves to 3-2 in the league and 15-4 overall.
USC will be off until next Saturday when Auburn comes to Columbia. Kentucky also is off until next Saturday when Georgia visits Rupp Arena.