Saturday was not a typical day for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks didn’t have that resolve against the nation’s top-ranked team, and the consequence was staggering: Kentucky 77, South Carolina 43.
“We didn’t put up much of a fight today,” said Martin, whose squad had battled the No. 1 Wildcats to a much more respectable 58-43 outcome only three weeks ago in Columbia. “If we’re not going to put up a fight, then we’re not talented enough to play with a team like Kentucky.
“(John Calipari) has got these guys just playing together and united on both ends of the floor.”
Said Calipari: “We’re a good team... still trying to figure out how good.”
Kentucky (25-0, 12-0 SEC) matched the best start in the school’s tradition-rich history by shooting 50 percent from the field, holding the Gamecocks to 24 percent, and crushing the visitors on the glass by a 45-21 margin. South Carolina (12-12, 3-9 SEC) had outrebounded UK by 12 in the previous matchup.
The Wildcats led 43-18 at the half after holding South Carolina to 5-for-24 shooting from the field. UK led by as much as 39 late in the game.
Willie Cauley-Stein led three Cats in double figures with 14 points to go along with seven rebounds and a pair of steals. Aaron Harrison followed with 11 points, and Dakari Johnson turned in a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in only 21 minutes of action off the UK bench.
Kentucky had seven players with at least eight points in a balanced offensive attack.
South Carolina was led by Sindarius Thornwell with 20 points, but nine of those came at the line. He was just 5-for-17 from the floor against UK’s smothering defense.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highs and lows:
WHAT WE LIKED: Calipari prodded the Cats to rediscover their “killer instinct” after a number of closer-than-expected SEC games, including seeing UK allow a 13-point lead to evaporate Tuesday night at LSU before hanging on for a 71-69 win. Mission accomplished. Kentucky jumped on South Carolina from the opening tip and never let off the gas.
KEY MOMENT: The starting Blue platoon played a few minutes longer than usual on Saturday, largely due to what their coach saw from them on the defensive end of the floor. The Cats jumped out to an 18-3 lead and allowed only one South Carolina basket and one free throw in the first 8:08.
STAT OF THE DAY:South Carolina made only 13 baskets on the day. Four of those came in the final 2:36 against a UK lineup that included its last two bench players and a walk-on. At one point the Gamecocks were 9-of-51 from the floor.
BY THE NUMBERS:
11 – Times the Cats have held an opponent under 30 percent from the floor this season.
+24 – UK’s rebounding margin was its second-highest of the season and largest versus an SEC opponent.
.827 – Calipari’s win percentage at UK, the best in school history.
25-0 – Kentucky matched the best start in school history set by the 1953-54 Wildcats.
55-0 – UK’s record under Calipari when holding an opponent under 55 points, including 17 times this season.
QUOTABLE: “I'm telling you, winning is so much more fun than losing. You have no idea. It just is. Losing stinks.” – Calipari when asked if he feels much more relaxed and happy this season after an up-and-down struggle in 2014.
UP NEXT: Kentucky returns to action Tuesday at Tennessee in a 7 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN. The Volunteers (14-10, 6-6 SEC) fell 73-55 to LSU on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville.
UK Center/Forward Willie Cauley-Stein...
UK Center Dakari Johnson...