Kentucky's (16-6, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) 16 wins are the most during the regular season since the 1998-99 campaign and the Cats' five conference victories are their most since 1999-00. The Wildcats have won five of their last six games in the all-time series with the Gamecocks (12-9, 3-6 SEC). Kentucky's three SEC road victories are its most since the 1982-83 season.
"This win was huge for us," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "This puts us back in the hunt in the SEC and puts us back on the winning track. It is never easy to win on the road and we were able to do that tonight. This win does a lot for us and really helps our confidence level."
The Wildcats, who led by as many as nine points (59-50) with 9:34 remaining, held a narrow 69-65 advantage with 2:44 remaining in the game. Kentucky, which began employing a stifling full-court press, forced South Carolina's Olga Gritsaeva to turn the ball over and Mahoney, who was reinserted into the starting lineup after coming off the bench the last four games, came up with a critical steal.
The 5-foot-10 guard went the length of the court for a lay-up which put the Cats ahead 71-65 with 2:32 left. USC's Stacy Booker connected on a three-pointer on the next possession, but a pair of free-throws by Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) extended UK's advantage to five, 73-68, with 20 seconds remaining. The Gamecocks kept fighting to come as close as two, 73-71, with 14 seconds remaining on a three-pointer by Lea Fabbri. Mahoney was instantly fouled and knocked down both of her charity shots.
"I was really proud of the poise that we showed down the stretch," DeMoss said. "We had that little run in the second half and we were able to maintain that, but South Carolina hit some threes at the end to keep it close. We knew it was going to be a tough game and they have been playing well at home. I sure was excited when that horn went off."
Kentucky shot 44.1 percent (30-of-68) from the floor for the game and out-rebounded the Gamecocks 45-35. The Wildcats snatched 20 offensive rebounds for the second consecutive game after bringing down 21 offensive boards against Florida on Sunday.
Mahoney was one of three players to score in double figures for the Wildcats as freshman point guard Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.) had 12 points and junior guard Nastassia Alcius (Lexington, Ky.) added 11. Humphrey, who has brought down double-figure rebound totals in three consecutive games, had nine points to complement her 18 boards, which are one shy of her season-high in rebounds. Humphrey has brought down 42 total rebounds over the last three games.
After a tough offensive performance in the first half (34.1 pct.), the Wildcats shot 59.3 percent (16-of-27) from the floor in the final period.
Elliott made the first two baskets of the second half to put UK in front 35-33 with 18:54 left in the game. The teams continued to battle closely with four ties over the game's next 3:10 before a three-pointer by Booker put the Gamecocks ahead 43-40 with 15:44 left. Trailing 48-44 after a Booker three-pointer, the Wildcats went on a 13-0 run backed by seven points from Mahoney to take a 57-48 lead with 10:02 left. Though South Carolina hung tough, the Cats would not trail the rest of the way.
South Carolina broke out to a 7-3 advantage to begin the game. Back-to-back baskets by Humphrey and Roddy knotted the score at 7-7 with 15:52 left in the first half. After two more ties, the Gamecocks went on a 5-0 run highlighted by a three-point play by Iva Sliskovic to move in front 16-11 with 12:03 remaining in the opening stanza. The Wildcats made just five of their first 20 shots heading into a timeout with 10:52 left in the half.
Out of the break, Jenny Pfeiffer (North Vernon, Ind.) knocked down a basket, but South Carolina then went on a 4-0 run to move in front 21-13 with 8:47 left and force another UK timeout. The Cats responded with an 8-2 run of their own over the next 3:30, including four points from Alcius, that brought the Cats within two, 23-21 with 5:13 left until halftime. The Wildcats came within two points four more times before the half, but were unable to tie the score. UK entered the locker room trailing 33-31.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it travels to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks. Tip-off in Bud Walton Arena is set for 3 p.m. EST and the game will be televised by Fox Sports Net South and aired live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.
The Wildcats' next home game is Thursday, Feb. 16, when they play host to Ole Miss at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. Single-game general admission tickets are available for $5 adults/$2 senior citizens and children ages 18 and under. UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification based on availability. For ticket information, log on to ukathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287).