Kentucky, ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll, also earned its 20th win of the season as Coach John Calipari hit the 20-win mark for the 27th time in his career and 12th as Kentucky’s head coach.
Oscar Tshiebwe led the Wildcats with 18 points and 14 rebounds for his 18th double-double, good for second in the nation.
Keion Brooks continued his emergence with 15 points, while TyTy Washington finished with 14, despite being hampered with two first-half fouls.
Kellan Grady added 12 points, while Davion Mintz and Jacob Toppin chipped in with 10 each.
Kentucky led be 12 points with under 90 seconds left in the opening half, but the Gamecocks closed with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to five at the break (39-34).
Things got interesting early in the second half, as South Carolina tied the game at 43-all with 16:05 remaining. That’s when a Tshiebwe steal led to a dunk by TyTy Washington, who then hit one of two free throws before finding Keion Brooks on the lob dunk to put Kentucky up 48-43. A Grady steal and dunk capped a 7-0 run as UK pulled ahead 50-43.
The Gamecocks quickly fought back to make it a one possession game at 50-47 before the Wildcats finally got some separation as Tshiebwe scored in the post, got a run out dunk on a pass from Washington, and a Davion Mintz free throw and a Washington three-pointer was part of an 8-0 run that put the Cats up 58-47 at with 12:05 remaining.
Despite getting out-rebounded and making 16 turnovers, the Wildcats were able to hang on and move to just one game back of SEC leader Auburn, who lost on Tuesday night at Arkansas to fall to 10-1 in conference play.
The Wildcats, 20-4 (9-2) return home on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 pm ET against Florida.
After grabbing just two rebounds in the first half, Tshiebwe kicked things into high gear and took control over the game’s final twenty minutes to give the Cats the win and earn Game MVP honors.
Recently named a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award for the nation’s best center, Tshiebwe leads the country in rebounding (15.2), offensive rebounds per game (5.1) and defensive rebound percentage (.366) and is on pace to become just the seventh UK player to get 400 rebounds in a single season.
The West Virginia transfer also leads Kentucky in steals and finished with two steals and three blocks in the victory. Tshiebwe has been a sneaky defender out of the pick-and-roll defense and is on pace to finish among the top three in school history for steals in a single season.
The first half MVP was Jacob Toppin who proved to be the “next man up” for Kentucky as the 6-foot-9 forward scored 10 points and was active on both ends of the court before exiting the game with an injury with 1:42 left in the first half.