COLUMBIA, S.C. (South Carolina SID) - Behind 24 points from senior guard Brenton Williams and six points scored by sophomore forward Laimonas Chatkevicius in the final 2:36, the South Carolina men's basketball team (11-18, 4-12 SEC), earned a 72-67 victory over No. 17/15 Kentucky (21-8, 11-5 SEC), on Saturday night in Southeastern Conference play at Colonial Life Arena.
It was South Carolina's first win versus Kentucky since a 68-62 victory over the Wildcats when UK was ranked No. 1 on Jan. 26, 2010, and it was Carolina's first win over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 22/24 Vanderbilt, 83-75, on Jan. 8, 2011 in Columbia.
Along with Williams, freshman Sindarius Thornwell added 14 points, four assists and three rebounds, while sophomore forward Michael Carrera chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds. Aaron Harrison had a team-high 21 points for the Wildcats to go with six assists, and James Young added 19 points, while Julius Randle had his 16th double-double of the season with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
After a 3-pointer from the right corner from freshman guard Duane Notice in the early going, the Gamecocks pulled within one at 12-11 before Kentucky ran off a 6-1 run. Sophomore Brian Steele ended that as Thornwell found the forward in stride in with a three-quarter-court pass for a layup.
Thornwell brought the Gamecocks to within two with 6:56 on the clock as the freshman drove hard to the right side and laid it in with the right hand before being fouled. He sank the ensuing free throw to make it a one-point game.
With a three-point Kentucky lead after a pair of Randle free throws made it a 23-20 game, but with 5:49 remaining, Kentucky head coach John Calipari was given a technical foul and Williams hit both free throws. A minute later, Thornwell stopped at the top of the key and dropped a 3 to make it a 25-24 game.
Giving up an offensive rebound to the Wildcats on the following possession, Williams drew a charge on Andrew Harrison. On the other end, Notice gave Carolina a one-point lead with a floater in the lane with 3:45 on the clock.
Tied at 28-28, Thornwell rose up and hit second 3 of the half with 49 seconds to give the Gamecocks a 31-28 lead at the half despite being out-rebounded 30-15. It was Carolina's defense though that allowed them to have the lead as the team held the Wildcats to 17.2 percent (5-of-29) shooting from the field.
Less than two minutes into the second half, freshman forward Demetrius Henry grabbed a defensive rebounded, gave it to Thornwell and the freshman found Chatkevicius in stride at the other end for an easy two-handed dunk. In the following minute, Williams added four consecutive free throws to extend the lead to 39-29.
Andrew Harrison hit 1-of-2 from the line to slow temporarily slow the run, but six more unanswered came from the Gamecocks as they pushed the lead to 45-30 as Thornwell found Carrera on the backdoor for an alley-oop.
After a jumper from Cauley-Stein, Williams answered with 3 from the right corner to extend the lead to 16.
With a 50-34 lead with 12:45 remaining, Kentucky crept back into the game with five unanswered. Williams though was sent back to the free line with 10:23 on the clock where he sank both shots after Calipari was given his second technical.
After a jumper from Notice pushed it to 16 with just over 10 minutes to play, the Wildcats hit six straight free throws before Aaron Harrison sank a 3-pointer to close within seven at 55-48 with just under seven minutes remaining. Out of a Kentucky timeout, Young cut the Wildcats deficit to 57-53 with under five minutes remaining as he hit his second 3 of the night.
Despite the Wildcats' continued effort, the Gamecocks continued to hold them at bay. With 1:23 left, Chatkevicius put back a missed layup from Thornwell. Young answered though for Kentucky with another 3. But with 44 seconds on the clock, it was Chatkevicius again who stepped up big with a jumper from close range.
After a turnover by Young, Williams stepped to the line after being fouled. The nation's leader in free throw percentage calmly sank both shots, but Aaron Harrison brought Kentucky back within four after hitting his second 3 of the game. Randle pulled Wildcats within one after scoring on a layup and sinking the ensuing free throw after being fouled.
Clinging to a 68-67 lead, Thornwell was fouled on the inbound pass. As he did two weeks ago in a tight game against Alabama, the freshman calmly sank both free throws. After a missed 3-point attempt from Kentucky's Alex Poythress, Williams was sent back to the charity stripe with five seconds remaining. As he's done nearly every time this year, the senior converted both to ice the game and give the Gamecocks the 72-67 victory.
The win was aided by a 38-16 run from South Carolina that began with 7:37 remaining in the first half that ended at the 12:45 mark in the second.
On a night in which South Carolina was out-rebounded 46-28, it was the Gamecocks tenacity on defense that held the conference second-best scoring offense to go 14-of-52 (26.9 percent) from the field. Carolina in turn shot 39.6 percent (21-of-53) overall. Despite the rebounding difference, the Gamecocks were able to outscore Kentucky 28-12 in the paint and got 19 points from its bench compared to the Wildcats' 4.
South Carolina continues SEC play when it hosts No. 1 Florida on Tuesday at 7 p.m., with the contest televised on ESPNU.
Gamecocks outlast No. 17 Kentucky, 72-67
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