COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) – A sellout crowd made for an exciting atmosphere Saturday as the No. 20 South Carolina Gamecocks (21-4, 8-4 SEC) hosted No. 22/21 Kentucky (19-6, 9-3). The Wildcats built up a big lead late in the first half and rode it to an 89-62 win, snapping the Gamecocks’ perfect record at home this season. Michael Carrera led the way for the home team with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but Carolina shot just 32 percent for the game.
The game had a peculiar start, after Kentucky head coach John Calipari was assessed two technical fouls after a South Carolina foul and was ejected. The Gamecocks made just one of the four free throws from the technical, but were able to take an early 8-7 lead after a deep 3 from Carrera. The Wildcats would respond with a 7-0 run over a 90-second span that led to a 16-10 advantage they would never relinquish.
Kentucky was thriving through its rebounding efforts early, seven of its first 10 rebounds came on the offensive end. For the half, the visitors were able to attempt eight extra shots. Carolina had an advantage at the free throw line, but weren’t able to take advantage, making just 7-of-15 shots from the stripe in the first half.
South Carolina’s offense was forced into settling for mid-range jump shots against Kentucky’s size inside, the Wildcats on the other hand were able to space out the defense, slash inside and earn easier looks. Point guard Tyler Ulis exasperated the defense with a trio of shot-clock-beating jumpers and finished the half with 14 points and four assists on 5-of-8 shooting.
The Gamecocks hit field goals on back-to-back possessions just once in the final 14 minutes before halftime; Kentucky accomplished that three times in the final eight minutes to creep further and further ahead. The Wildcat lead expanded out to 18 points in the final minute, and the visitors carried a 42-27 lead into halftime. The Gamecocks shot just 35 percent in the half, and had their third-lowest first-half point total of the season.
Kentucky did not relent after the intermission, pushing the lead up to 24 three minutes in thanks to an 11-0 run. Carolina turnovers fueled the run, as did a 1-of-7 success rate from the field in the first six minutes of action. The lead would grow as large as 34, 77-43, with seven minutes to play, and the Gamecocks would get no closer than 22 after Kentucky’s opening run in the second half.
Carrera led the team with 17 second-half points, almost half of the entire team’s output (35). He would also lead the Gamecocks with 10 rebounds, good for his seventh double-double of the season. As a team, South Carolina made just 9-of-29 shots in the second half, Kentucky was an even 50 percent (15-30) with six 3s.
Kentucky closed the first half with a 10-2 run that pushed a 32-22 Kentucky lead up to 42-24 with a minute left to go. The Wildcats expanded that run to 21-7 after a fast start to the second half, and the Gamecocks would come no closer than 20 for the rest of the afternoon. Carolina was just 2-of-10 shooting during that extended run.
South Carolina entered the game with an average of 34.2 points in the paint per game while allowing just 21.8 to opponents. Kentucky reversed that nearly identically Saturday, outscoring the Gamecocks 34-20 in the paint.
The Gamecocks travel to Missouri for a matchup vs. the Tigers next Tuesday (Feb. 16), before returning home to host Florida on Saturday, Feb. 20. The game at Mizzou marks the second meeting between the two schools this season, as the Gamecocks posted an 81-72 win vs. the Tigers in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 16. Carolina’s game vs. the Gators marks the lone meeting between the two schools this season. Game time at Mizzou is set for 7 p.m. ET, while the Florida game will tip at Noon ET.
• Saturday was the team’s second sell out crowd at Colonial Life Arena, with both coming over the last three games. The team is averaging over 12,000 fans per game this season.
• South Carolina’s home win streak comes to an end at 13 games. It was the longest since the 1997-98 team also won 13 in a row.
• Michael Carrera is averaging 20.8 points and 7.9 rebounds over the team’s last eight games, and has four double-doubles in the last six games.
• Tyler Ulis is the first opposing player to reach double figures in assists against Carolina since Dee Bost for Mississippi State did it on Feb. 29, 2012. Ulis finished with 12.