The South Carolina Gamecocks couldn’t shake off a slow start and a shaky second half on the road against the Kentucky Wildcats, and it ended up costing them as they fell 85-69 at Rupp Arena on Saturday night in a game where PJ Dozier was unavailable due to back spasms.
Kentucky scored 13 of the game’s first 16 points en route to a 23-6 margin with 11:29 left. But the Gamecocks turned things around a bit, cutting it to 30-27 thanks in part to six straight points by Sindarius Thornwell and a quick four points by Hassani Gravett off the bench. Kentucky would respond with a little run of its own and carried a 47-38 lead into the locker room.
Despite South Carolina once again battling in the second half (at one point cutting it to 48-44 with 17:51 left), they could never quite get over the hump as the Wildcats fought back with a 7-0 run to stretch their advantage to 55-44 just 1:50 later. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks went cold from the floor at the wrong time as Duane Notice and Justin McKie looked to take over from outside, but couldn’t as they went a combined 0-8 from outside. Overall, the Gamecocks went 5-20 from deep.
Foul trouble ended up plaguing the Gamecocks as they were forced to play without Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar for extended amounts of time. Missing PJ Dozier and getting little production from anyone outside of Sindarius Thornwell didn’t help, either. Gravett did provide a spark off the bench, but got into foul trouble of his own by picking up his third late in the first half and his fourth with 14:52 left in the second.
Thornwell ended with a career-high 34 points on 9-23 shooting from the floor, making 14 of his 15 attempts at the line. TeMarcus Blanton had 12 off the bench for the Gamecocks; no other Carolina player scored more than seven. Malik Monk led the way for the Wildcats with 27 points, with Bam Adebayo tacking on 18.
South Carolina returns home to face Auburn at Colonial Life Arena on Tuesday. Tip off for that one is set for 6:30 on the SEC Network.