Gamecocks Fall to Kentucky, 67-58

After losing two straight road games in conference play, Kentucky came into the Colonial Life Arena wanting to prove something. What they proved is that they can have a stellar defense when they want to. The Wildcats left Columbia with a 67-58 victory, snapping a two-game losing streak in Columbia in the process.

Last season the South Carolina men's basketball team had Devan Downey. Downey almost single-handedly beat John Wall and then-undefeated #1 Kentucky. Though Wall and his fab group of freshmen have all gone pro, Kentucky is still pretty good. Carolina had no answer for the speed and length of Kentucky as the 12th-ranked Wildcats ended a two-game losing streak at the Colonial Life Arena with a 67-58 win over the Gamecocks Saturday night in Columbia.

Bruce Ellington, the man in charge of the Gamecock offense this season, struggled against the length of Deandre Liggins on the offensive end all night. Ellington, the team leader in scoring with 15 points per game. made just 3-of-11 shots from the field, 1-of-5 behind the arc, and 1-of-2 from the free throw line to finish with eight points. His frustration boiled over early in the second half when he tossed the ball at Liggins after a Gamecock timeout, picking up a technical foul and his fourth personal foul.

"Our young team learned a lesson today," Gamecock head coach Darrin Horn said following the game. "We told them that the team we were playing today were going to play like they had their backs against the wall and play the way that we did. We dug ourselves too big of a hole."

Sam Muldrow did his part, recording his fifth double-double of the season with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and threw down several impressive dunks, but it just wasn't enough to overcome the struggles of his teammates on the offensive end as no other Gamecock reached double figures. The Gamecocks shot just 33% from the floor, 65% from the free throw line - missing several crucial free throws to extend scoring runs - and an atrocious 17% from behind the arc - 3-of-18.

"Sam Muldrow was terrific," Horn said. "He played like a senior that was not going to let himself or his team lose. As we talked about - I think this is true for any team - when we only have one guy playing like that it's really hard for you to be their best. He was unbelievable tonight. I think he played like a first-team SEC guy."

Early on the two teams went back and forth in a fury. Early three-pointers by Sam Muldrow and Brian Richardson, coupled with a pair of Bruce Ellington jumpers off-set four early free throws by the Wildcats to tie the game at 10-10 five minutes in. From there the Gamecocks went ice cold from the field. The Gamecocks would only get a pair of Ramon Galloway free throws over the next five minutes as the Wildcats went on a 12-2 run to grab a 22-12 lead before a pair of Muldrow free throws. A Muldrow jumper with 7:38 left in the half would finally end a near eight minute field goal drought to pull the Gamecocks to within nine at 26-17.

After a Muldrow rebound and dunk and a Damontre Harris dunk putback drew the Gamecocks to within eight with under a minute to play, Kentucky turned the ball over under their basket, giving the Gamecocks what should have been the last shot of the half. Instead, Lakeem Jackson turned the ball over and Darius Miller would eventually nail a jumper from the elbow at the buzzer. Instead of the Gamecocks having a chance to get with six at the half, they trailed 36-26.

"It didn't feel like we moved the ball as well as we'd want to in some situations, but sometimes we got some good looks and attacked the basket but they just didn't go in," Horn said.

The Wildcats would carry that momentum over into the second half with a 10-4 run to take a commanding 46-30 lead, but the Gamecocks would make one final push. After a fastbreak layup by Doran Lamb gave the Wildcats a seemingly commanding 53-35 lead, the Gamecocks began cutting into the lead.

A quick 6-0 on dunks by Muldrow and a highlight dunk by Galloway, followed by a Cooke basket that cut the lead to 12 at 53-41 with 8:27 left in the game. Knight answered with a pair of free throws and a three-pointer to push the lead back out to 58-41. The Gamecocks then went on a 15-3 run to trim the lead to 61-56, but the Gamecocks could get no closer as the Cats made their free throws down the stretch and held on for the win.

"It's a two-possession game with a minute left," Horn said. "We always think we can win and our kids fought to the end. I just think the way the game started set a bad tone for the rest of the game."

Brandon Knight led the Kentucky offense with 23 points, including 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Miller had 18 and Terrence Jones had 14.

Carolina, now 12-6 (3-2 SEC), will have a brief break before returning to the court. The Gamecocks will not play a mid-week game and will host Auburn on Saturday to close out the three-game homestand. The game is slated for a 1:30 P.M. tip and will air on the SEC Network.


- Due to his foul trouble, Ellington only played 24 minutes against the Wildcats - his fewest of the season.

- With Ellington sidelined in foul trouble, Eric Smith was forced to play extended minutes. Smith played a career high 20 minutes, scoring five points and making all three free throw attempts.

- With three blocks, Muldrow now has 234 blocks for his career. He has 59 blocks on the season through 17 games. He is just 15 blocks away from tying Brandon Wallace's school record of 249. If he continues on his current pace of nearly 3.5 blocks per game, he's set to break the school record somewhere between the two-game home stretch with Georgia and Florida.

- With 23 points, Muldrow tied his career high. He scored 23 points last season against Arkansas. He has a thing about playing against the Hogs - his season high coming into tonight's game was 20 against the Hogs last time out.

- As mentioned, Muldrow recorded his fifth double-double of the season. In his previous three seasons as a Gamecock, Muldrow only recorded one - a 19-point, 11-rebound performance in a 78-77 win over Georgia last season in Columbia.

- Muldrow shot from the line 10 times tonight - a career high - and made eight of his free throw attempts.

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