The no. 4 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (19-2, 9-1) posed a daunting riddle for the no. 25 UK Hoops team to solve Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.
Blessed with length and strength, the garnet and black would be difficult for the smaller and thin-benched Cats. To win the Wildcats would need to shoot a high percentage and keep A’ja Wilson in check.
Neither happened. The Gamecocks out muscled and out hustled the ladies in blue in a complete route, 75-63. With the less Matthew Mitchell’s team dropped their second game in a row to fall to 15-8 on the season and 6-4 in conference play.
The Gamecocks Pounced in the 2nd Quarter
Kentucky hung around for the majority of the opening ten and only trailed by five points, 20-15 Then the lid slammed down on the Cat's’ basket just as South Carolina began a 22-2 run to break the game open. Kentucky got several good looks only to see gravity frown at them and send the ball into the hands of a waiting Gamecock player. They did not net a point over a six-minute stretch until Makayla Epps sank two free throws. Kentucky’s stingy defense failed to silence the visitors when they needed it most. Dawn Staley’s team shot 45 percent for the half.
A’ja Wilson Did Work
The east coast’s USC has the most versatile player in the SEC, and the full extent of talents was on full display. Wilson’s wingspan and lateral quickness on the perimeter made her a matchup nightmare for UK, who had no one to slow her down as she ate up rebound after rebound and kept loose balls alive for teammates. When necessary, Wilson stepped back and tickled the twine with a gorgeous mid-range jumper. She also put the ball on the floor and got the free throw line to complete an all-around fantastic performance. Wilson finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, 3 assists, and five blocks.
Makayla Epps Was Kentucky’s Lone Bright Spot
The senior from Lebanon struggled from the floor (8-of-22) and with a stomach virus but her hustle and occasional scoring outbursts steadied the Cats on an overall stormy night. She finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, and two assists.