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Takeaways from UK Hoops 73-62 Loss to South Carolina

UK fought valiantly but came up short against No. 2 South Carolina.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Kentucky clipped the South Carolina Gamecocks in an absolute thriller at Memorial Coliseum.

Thursday night, Matthew Mitchell’s team needed a pair of boxing gloves in a physical rematch against the No. 2, revenge-minded visitors from the Palmetto State in front of a raucous crowd.

Neither team could find the basket early but Kentucky built an early lead thanks to stifling defense that limited South Carolina to a 1-for-8 start to the game and kept the ball out of the hands of the Gamecocks’ mammoth frontline; Kentucky led 16-8 at the end of the first quarter.

The lead grew to ten points early in the second quarter until twin triples by South Carolina’s Tina Roy and Tiffany Mitchell cut the lead to six, 30-24. Two quick baskets by A’ja Wilson whittled Kentucky’s lead down to four at the half, 32-28.

A Janee Thompson basket and two Alexis Jennings free throws early in the third quarter gave the Wildcats some breathing room and a 38-30 lead.

With 7:33 left in the quarter, a Alaina Coates free throw cut the deficit to seven. She missed the next free throw; Roy snagged the offensive rebound and fed Coates for a layup.that swung the momentum in South Carolina’s favor.

The momentum continued to snowball into an absolute avalanche when the Gamecocks started to feed Wilson in the post. Kentucky had no answer for the lanky forward and when they swarmed Wilson the South Carolina guards blew past Cats for numerous easy scores and they finally reclaimed the lead with thirty seconds left in the quarter.

The game seesawed in the fourth quarter and even when South Carolina’s lead grew to five points the Cats had a chance to pull out the win but a 2-for-11 stretch doomed the comeback effort and South Carolina ran away to a 73-62 victory.

With the loss fell to 13-2 on the season and 2-2 in SEC play; it was also the Wildcats’ first home loss of the season.


- A’ja Wilson put on an incredible performance with a near triple-double and any team in the country would have struggled to stop her on this night. Her length and ability to put the ball on the floor presented Kentucky with a challenge that they failed to meet head on. In the postgame press conference Matthew Mitchell said that Kentucky’s inability to block Wilson out on several possessions is what swung the game in the Gamecocks favor.

- Foul trouble kept Alexis Jennings and Evelyn Akhator on the bench for long stretches of time. Without them Kentucky failed to establish any balance on offense in the second half and were without their two best rebounders. Freshmen Batouly Camara performed admirably in their place and finished the game with seven points and ten rebounds. Unfortunately, Camara’s inexperience showed when she guarded A’ja Wilson and South Carolina’s muscled around her for key offensive rebounds. So far in SEC play, Kentucky’s front court has put in several uneven performances and it felt like that it would eventually cost them in a big game which was the case tonight.

- Senior point guard Janee Thompson took the loss hard. After the game she looked defeated and seemed unhappy with the defensive effort of some of her teammates, at one point remarking that the issue will be corrected during the team’s next practice. Thompson played fearlessly down the stretch and was the only WIldcat not shy about challenging Wilson. When Kentucky needed a big shot it was Thompson who provided it.  She finished the night with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, four rebounds and four assists, a performance that she should hold her head high with pride about.

- While the result of tonight’s game was not favorable, Kentucky showed that they can play with one of the best teams in America. The Wildcats stuffed South Carolina at every turn in the first quarter and their transition game yielded numerous easy baskets. South Carolina barely won the rebounding (44-43) and points in the paint (38-34) battle, proving that Kentucky’s bigs are just as capable as the vaunted Gamecock unit.