Kentucky (15-6, 4-4 Southeastern Conference), which defeated the Gamecocks 72-60 earlier this season in Lexington, is beginning a stretch that will see the Wildcats play four of their next five games on the road. The Cats are looking to bounce back from a 68-61 loss to Florida on Sunday in Lexington. UK out-rebounded the Gators 47-40, but hit just 16-of-27 free throws. Sophomores Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) and Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) came off the bench to lead the Cats with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
"This is definitely a game where we need to go down and play well," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "They are coming off two wins and we are coming off two losses. It is going to be interesting to see which team is the hungriest. I think it is interesting when it boils down to February, to see each teams' motivation and endurance. We are going to be on the road and it is a challenge. We have proven we can play well on the road. We just have to get that focus back and meet that challenge."
A balanced UK scoring attack is led by junior guard Jenny Pfeiffer (North Vernon, Ind.), who has come off the bench in all 21 games this season. She is averaging a squad-best 11.4 points per game and ranked sixth in the nation in free-throw shooting percentage (92.4). Mahoney and Elliott follow with 11.3 and 10.5 ppg, respectively. Senior forward/center Jennifer Humphrey (Memphis) is the team's leading rebounder, averaging 9.1 boards per game. She ranks fourth in the SEC in rebounding and her mark is the best rebounding average by a Wildcat since Leslie Nichols averaged 9.1 rebounds as a junior in 1984-85.
This is the 36th meeting in the all-time series between Kentucky and South Carolina. UK leads the series 21-14, but USC holds a 10-5 advantage when the game is played in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won five of the last six meetings in Columbia, including a 60-47 victory last season in the Colonial Center. UK's last win over South Carolina, the Cats' permanent home-and-home opponent, in Columbia came in 2004, a 75-61 UK win on Jan. 25.
"South Carolina has not changed a lot since the first time we played them," DeMoss said. "They are playing nine people consistently. They are big, they press and they run a multiple defense. Not much has changed since we played them the first time except it will be on the road instead of at home. It's always tough to play on the road in this league."
The Gamecocks (12-8, 3-5 SEC) have won three of their last four league games after claiming a 51-46 win at Mississippi State last Sunday. No USC player is averaging double figure points and reserve Stacy Booker leads the team with 9.5 ppg, while Melanie Johnson follows with 9.0 ppg. The Gamecocks are 14-3 during Johnson's career when she has scored in double figures. Junior forward Iva Sliskovic is the squad's leading rebounder, averaging 5.8 rpg.
Johnson led USC with 18 points against the Bulldogs and received 11 points and nine rebounds from sophomore center Ilona Burgrova, holding Mississippi State to just 23.9 percent shooting from the field.