ATLANTA, Ga. --- Team Turmoil's season just got a little more turbulent.
South Carolina held Kentucky to 31 percent shooting, and the Wildcats made only one of 19 from long range on Friday in falling 70-57 to the Gamecocks in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
Adding to the sting of another poor shooting night was the absence of a key player again. Starting guard Gerald Fitch, who missed three of the last four games due to disciplinary action, never entered the game for No. 12 Kentucky (20-9). Coach Tubby Smith declined to comment on the decision after the game other than to say "We had a difference of opinion."
South Carolina (18-13) advances to face SEC regular season champion Alabama on Saturday in the semifinals at the Georgia Dome. The Gamecocks snapped their 12-game losing streak to the Cats, who have won eight of the last 10 SEC Tournament titles.
Dave Odom's club played one of its most complete games of the season against Kentucky. In addition to their strong defensive play (which included 10 steals), they also shot 50 percent from the field (22 of 44) and placed five players in double figures.
Point guard Aaron Lucas paced South Carolina with 12 points. Backcourt mate Jamel Bradley followed with 11, while Tony Kitchings added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Kentucky raced to a 7-0 lead, but bogged down offensively midway through the first half and never recovered. A 22-10 run by the Gamecocks gave them a seven-point lead at the half.
The Cats pulled within six at the 14:32 mark of the second half, but South Carolina put the game away with three straight 3-pointers as part of a 13-2 run to take its biggest lead of the night (55-39).
Kentucky was led by Keith Bogans with a modest 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field. Tayshaun Prince picked up two fouls in the first four mintues of action and never returned until the second half. He finished with 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting. He and Bogans combined to make just one of 11 from 3-point range.
"We couldn't make shots, and we couldn't stop them," Smith said. "Tayshaun picking up his second foul really hurt... and my decision not to play him probably cost us."