Cats score 'team win' over Gamecocks

Gerald Fitch, Tayshaun Prince and Cliff Hawkins all hit for double figures Saturday as the Cats shot 58 percent from the field en route to a 91-74 win over South Carolina...

LEXINGTON, Ky.  --- South Carolina's Dave Odom sounded like a coach with very few options during Saturday's game at Kentucky.

"They did whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do it, and to whomever they wanted to do it to," Odom said after the Wildcats shot a blistering 58 percent from the field and buried 11 of 22 from 3-point range en route to a 91-74 victory at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky's Jules Camara (middle) battles South Carolina's Aaron Lucas and Marius Petravicius (12) for a loose ball. (AP - Ed Reinke)

Gerald Fitch led No. 10 Kentucky (15-5, 5-3 SEC) with 17 points and nine rebounds after resuming his place in the starting lineup. The sophomore guard saw his streak of 44 straight starting assignments end Tuesday at Florida after being late for a team meeting.

"I learned my lesson," said Fitch, who equaled his career scoring high in going 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from behind the arc. "Coach had enough faith to put me back in there, and I was just going to do whatever it takes to stay in the starting lineup."

Kentucky entered the game last in the SEC in 3-point shooting (28 percent), but got at least one trey from six different players. Surprises in the mix were sophomore point guard Cliff Hawkins with three and junior center Jules Camara with his first since December 1999.

"Cliff, that's not his game, but he was feeling it today," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "... (Camara) has very good touch and can hit that shot. We don't have a play for him to take that, but he can hit it if it's there.

"If you make shots early like Gerald did and Tayshaun (Prince) did, it is contagious. The guys were looking for each other, and jumping up when they got the ball.... I've said from the beginning, if we make shots, it sets the tone and a standard."

Prince was 7-for-12 from the field and added 16 points for the Cats. Hawkins followed with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting. The potent UK bench also contributed mightily by accounting for at least 30 points for the ninth time this season. Camara paced the reserves with nine, and Chuck Hayes --- who started in Fitch's place in the victory at Florida --- added six points and six rebounds.

Both teams opened the game hot from the perimeter. The Cats and Gamecocks traded baskets for the first 9:50 until Fitch's 3-pointer gave Kentucky a 23-19 advantage. He followed that up with two more long jumpers to make it 29-21 at the 8:41 mark.

South Carolina's Chuck Eidson hit a driving shot in the lane to cut the lead to six, but the Cats answered with a 11-0 run to take their biggest lead of the first half (40-23). Hawkins had seven points in the spurt, including back-to-back 3-pointers.

"We had no answer for him," Odom said of Hawkins, who beat the Gamecocks on a last-second drive in the teams' previous meeting at Columbia. "If we see Kentucky again this year, we've got to figure out something else for him."

Kentucky carried a 46-31 lead into the half. South Carolina pulled within 52-45 at the 14:34 mark of the second half as Carlos Powell scored six of his nine points off the bench. That prompted Smith to call a timeout, and refocused, the Cats responded with a 29-7 run to put the game away.

Eight different UK players scored during the key run with Hawkins, Camara, Keith Bogans and Rashaad Carruth each hitting a 3-pointer.

"I liked our team play today," Smith said. "We really moved the ball well and distributed the ball to the open man.

"This time of year, you have to have players playing for the cause and not for themselves."

South Carolina (13-8, 3-5 SEC) entered the game leading the league in scoring defense (61.0). It marked the most points the Gamecocks have surrendered this season.

Eidson led the Gamecocks with a fine all-around performance --- 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals. Jamel Bradley followed with 14 points, but had only six after scoring eight in the game's first three and a half minutes.

The Cats held South Carolina's main frontcourt trio --- Rolando Howell, Marius Petravicius and Tony Kitchings --- to only six points and 10 rebounds. Kentucky held a 44-18 advantage on points in the paint, and outrebounded the Gamecocks 38-27.

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