- Wednesday, January 10 2001 -
South Carolina - 63 (Head Coach: Eddie Fogler) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 69 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
|J. P. Blevins||18||3||3||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||1||8|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 32, South Carolina 28
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Georgia 67 - 63|||||Notre Dame 82 - 71|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
UK tops S. Carolina
LEXINGTON, Ky. --- They're the kings of close, these Kentucky Wildcats.
For the second straight time to start Southeastern Conference play and the seventh time this year, Kentucky found itself in a tight game decided by single-digits, slipping past South Carolina 69-63 on Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
And like they did Saturday against Georgia, the Cats saw a seemingly comfortable 14-point lead whittled down to dangerous proportions before outscoring the Gamecocks 8-2 in the final two minutes of play.
"We're learning how to win close games, something we didn't do earlier in the year," said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, whose team's five losses have come by a combined 14 points this season. "It was a real tough game. I thought South Carolina obviously came ready to play. Coming off a big win against Florida, you'd think they'd have a letdown, but they really hung in there.
"They showed a lot of character and heart to come back a get a tie, but I thought we showed a lot of poise in order to get the win."
Kentucky (8-5, 2-0 SEC) got another strong performance from its bench, which could have been the deciding factor in the game, outscoring USC 31-12. Sophomore forward Marquis Estill came off the bench to score 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 shooting at the line, including a pair of free throws that put the Cats up by four with 28.2 seconds left.
South Carolina (9-4, 1-1) had its chances down the stretch, but was hurt by two costly turnovers in the final 94 seconds.
"I thought our bench tonight was outstanding," Smith said. "J.P. (Blevins) coming in and playing well... Marquis and Marvin coming in ready to play. Cliff getting in there and penetrating the gaps, making things happen, which is what he does best. And Erik Daniels. I thought all those guys came in and gave us quality minutes."
"You just think that you're in the game when you're on the bench, and you go through things in your mind for when you get out there on the floor," Estill said of his ability to come off the bench cold and make things happen. His first two baskets, both powerful dunks, came as soon as he entered the game near the 13-minute mark of the first half.
Estill was one of four Kentucky players in double figures. Keith Bogans also had 11 points, while Tayshaun Prince and Jason Parker each added 10. Despite hitting only four of 18 from long range, the Cats shot better than 48 percent (29 of 54, 54 percent) for the fourth time in the last five games, all victories.
A close game at halftime, Kentucky used a 16-6 run to take a 48-34 lead with 16:20 remaining. The run included seven straight points by Bogans and a 3-pointer by Gerald Fitch to energize the Rupp Arena crowd.
But the Gamecocks were unflappable, hanging close through the midway point of the second half with the help of good free throw shooting and 3-pointers by Chuck Eidson and Michael Boynton.
Trailing by 55-43 with 10:47 left, South Carolina went on a 16-4 run that included seven straight points by center Marius Petravicius and a 3-pointer by Jamel Bradley. Aaron Lucas' free throw at the 3:50 mark tied the game at 59.
Blevins, who came off the UK bench to score eight points, hit a short jumper with 3:24 left to put the Cats up 61-59. South Carolina countered with a penetration basket by Lucas to tie the game at 61.
But from there, it was all Kentucky as Prince and Bogans hit shots in the lane, and Estill and Saul Smith iced the game with four straight free throws.
South Carolina was led by Petravicius with 13 points and seven rebounds. Bradley followed with 12 while Lucas and Eidson each added 10. But the Gamecocks shot only 37 percent (20 of 54) from the field, offsetting their 17 of 23 effort from the foul line.
The Cats step out of SEC play in their next game, playing host to Notre Dame on Saturday at Rupp Arena.
Keith Bogans drives into Tony Kitchings while attempting a layup. Bogans hurt his right ankle on the play.
Jason Parker (#42) works inside against South Carolina's Tony Kitchings