The game got off to a rollicking start, as the normally cold-shooting Gamecocks made seven of their first nine field goals to put the Wildcats on their heels a bit. But things evened out and the dreaded scoring drought eventually arrived, and Kentucky took a 37-34 halftime lead into the locker room.
South Carolina’s shooting woes continued into the start of the second half, and as Kentucky built a 54-40 advantage, it started to look more like the type of game fans had feared. But Chris Silva scored 12 of his 27 points in a key stretch that got the Gamecocks back in it, and South Carolina saw key contributions from Wes Myers (back-to-back layups to tie the game and then take the lead) and Maik Kotsar (four made free throws that stymied a Kentucky rally).
Frank Booker also excelled for the Gamecocks (12-6, 3-3 SEC), scoring 18 points off the bench and making six of his seven free throws. In total, South Carolina made 25 of its 38 foul shots, getting to the line with regularity and making the Wildcats pay. Kentucky had its opportunities from the charity stripe as well, but missed several late that would have kept the Wildcats (14-4, 4-2) within reach.
Overall, South Carolina shot just 37% from the field, and outrebounded Kentucky 40-35. In other words, it was a very Frank Martin way to win a basketball game.
For my money, this is one of the first times all season we’ve really seen the Gamecocks bring big-time energy and swagger to the court. South Carolina had to replace a lot from last season’s team, not only in terms of production but also in personality. Pairing this win with the gritty victory against Georgia is enough to give one hope that this squad is finally starting to figure it out and assert themselves.
I’m just really, really happy South Carolina won and didn’t waste this dunk. It’s also fun that a national TV audience got to see Silva take a man’s soul.
Up next: The Gamecocks host another ranked team, No. 21 Tennessee, at 6 p.m. on Saturday.