Kentucky may have come into Thursday night winless in SEC play, but they were able to go blow for blow with the defending champs… for three quarters.
Top-ranked South Carolina (17-0, 5-0) defeated the Kentucky Wildcats (8-9, 0-5) in a competitive matchup that got out of hand late by the score of 95-66.
Although this game may have looked like an ordinary conference affair on paper, there may have been a little extra motivation on USC’s side.
Kentucky was the last team to take down the Gamecocks, and they did so in the SEC Tournament final to rob them of another banner. The Wildcats are also one of only two squads to beat the Gamecocks in the last two seasons.
Despite being down 10 points early, South Carolina did not leave much up to question last night.
The Cocks as a team shot 64% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc and 80% from the charity stripe – a massive improvement from the last time we saw South Carolina take the court.
As if things couldn’t sound any better from an offensive perspective, the team’s 95 points scored was its highest in SEC play thus far and its third highest total on the year.
Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke led the Cocks in the points department, scoring 21 and 20 respectively, with the latter being key in the team’s comeback from an early hole, scoring 10 points in the squad’s 16-0 run in the second quarter to transform a 31-21 deficit to a 37-31 lead.
The Cats would eventually cut the lead to four with 41 second remaining in the third quarter following a Ajae Petty layup, but as you can tell by the final score, that slim deficit did not last very long.
Kentucky did succeed in limiting the offensive boards and second chance points by the Gamecocks, which is undoubtedly one of USC’s strong suits and helped keep Kentucky in the contest, but the Wildcats struggled to defend the paint, giving up 62 points in that area.
While it’s usually the defense making up for the team’s offensive dry spells, it was the exact opposite on Thursday.
The 29-point margin may look rough, but the 66 points scored by Kentucky was the most points given up by South Carolina this season in a game that ended in regulation.
The Wildcat scoring attack was led by Maddie Scherr, who put up 25 points while shooting an impressive 10-of-15 from the field, including 5-of-7 from three.
Considering the quick offensive improvement we were able to witness from Sunday to Thursday, I expect this stout Gamecock defense to make a triumphant return sooner than later.
South Carolina will return to the hardwood this Sunday afternoon at home when they take on the Missouri Tigers.