Mahoney, who finished with double figures for the third consecutive game and the seventh time in nine outings, anchored an impressive perimeter game for the Wildcats. She also dished out a team-high four assists, brought down four rebounds and came up with four steals. UK hit 8-of-16 from beyond the arc, the most three-pointers made by the Cats this season since hitting 12 vs. Stetson on Nov. 22. Ormerod, the SEC leader in three-point field goal percentage, connected on 4-of-5 attempts from three-point range while Mahoney and Pfeiffer went 2-of-5 and 2-of-6, respectively. UK advances to 11-3 overall, 1-1 in SEC play.
"It was a great win for our team," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "South Carolina is a great basketball team. I am proud of the way we played. We had some outstanding performances. Carly Ormerod made some really good decisions tonight…knocking her threes down and really playing smart. Samantha Mahoney played well and ended up with 20 points. Our perimeter people – (Jenny) Pfeiffer had 13 (points) – really stepped up big for us."
South Carolina entered the game ranked first in the nation in field goal percentage defense, holding the opponent to just 30.2 percent shooting. The Wildcats didn't seem threatened by that statistic as they shot 43.9 percent (25-of-57) from the floor, including a 50 percent (8-of-16) clip from beyond the arc. USC (9-5, 0-2) shot 42.6 percent (26-of-61) but hit 4-of-16 from the three-point line. UK out-rebounded South Carolina 37-36.
"We've been working hard on offense, and that's what got us going today," Ormerod said. "Our defense stepped up as well, so we made some big steals."
The Gamecocks came out with an early 6-5 advantage in the first half but from there, the long-range shooting of the Wildcats began to take over. Kentucky went on a 17-2 run over the next 5:56 to take a 22-8 lead with 10:55 left in the half. The Cats nailed four three-pointers during that stretch, including two by Mahoney. Kentucky continued adding to its advantage, moving ahead 28-15 on a pair of free-throws by sophomore center Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) with 7:10 left.
Four consecutive points by Mahoney put the Wildcats in front by 20 (39-19), and Kentucky went into the locker room leading 39-21. UK used a full-court press in the first half that seemed to fluster the Gamecock offense. UK forced 10 turnovers and scored 10 points off those USC miscues while also 41.4 percent (12-of-29) from the floor, including a blistering 54.5 percent (6-of-11) from three-point range.
"We started with some full court man-to-man press and trapping out of it and I thought it threw them out of their rhythm and set the tone for the remainder of the game," DeMoss said. "We were able to extend our lead in the first half held on in the second half."
South Carolina came out with a renewed energy in the second stanza, opening the half on a 12-5 run. The Gamecocks were able to cut the Kentucky advantage to single digits (48-39) on a three-pointer by Stacy Booker with 12:21 to go but a three-pointer by Ormerod on the next possession answered that run. South Carolina continued to fight, bringing the Gamecocks as close as eight points, 68-60, with 1:05 remaining. Kentucky held on and scored the final four points of the game to seal the victory.
"I'm just really impressed with their point guard play," USC Coach Susan Walvius said. "They had great leadership, great ball control. I thought they outworked us and outplayed us today. They were able to extend the floor and really stifle us with their defense."
The Gamecocks were led by Lauren Simms with 14. Booker and Iva Sliskovic added 10 apiece.
Kentucky returns to action Thursday when it travels to Gainesville, Fla., to take on Florida (13-2, 1-1 SEC) for its SEC road opener. Tip-off between the Wildcats and the Gators is set for 7 p.m. EST and the game will be carried live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.