On Feb. 10 – the last time Kentucky played South Carolina – the Wildcats dropped to a record of 9-11 following a nine-point loss to the Gamecocks. The team was in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
Since that day, Kentucky hasn’t lost, winning 10 straight games. Today, the program added a conference championship to its resumé.
As the seven seed in the SEC Tournament, Kentucky (19-11) did the impossible Sunday afternoon, handing top-ranked South Carolina (29-2) its second loss of the year by the score of 64-62, ending its 17-game winning streak and robbing the program of its seventh conference tournament championship in eight years.
Additionally, Kentucky punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, a place they most likely would have found themselves on the outside looking in with a loss to South Carolina.
To begin the game, both teams came out hot. Each squad made 47% of its field goals on route to a 21-18 Gamecock lead through one quarter, where Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke scored nine and eight points respectively. Kentucky also (surprisingly) held its own in the battle of the boards.
Then, as the Gamecocks do so well, they adjusted.
The Wildcats were held to three points in the second quarter as they struggled to find any answers on offense. Rhyne Howard and Dre’una Edwards – the team’s leading scorers – combined to shoot 0-for-5. Luckily for Kentucky, the Gamecocks couldn’t take advantage of the Wildcats’ slump, scoring nine points on 4-of-16 shooting in the quarter.
After halftime, South Carolina managed to stretch the lead to 15 points with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter following a bucket by Aliyah Boston, but things wouldn’t get much better from there.
Similar to yesterday, the Gamecocks struggled to close out the game.
USC made two baskets on 14 attempts in the fourth quarter while Kentucky got hot from three-point land in addition to Edwards heating up – scoring 12 of her 27 points in the final frame, including her game-winning three-pointer with five seconds remaining. Howard also scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half.
Despite out-rebounding Kentucky by 12, dominating the paint, getting to the line 20 times and great games from Boston (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Cooke (15 points), South Carolina leaves Nashville empty-handed, hoping to rebound from this tough loss in the NCAA Tournament.
The future for the Gamecocks as of now is uncertain, but we will find out seeding and their first-round opponent a week from now on Selection Sunday.