- Tuesday, February 15 2005 -
Kentucky - 61 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 3rd by AP and 3rd by ESPN/USA Today]
South Carolina - 73 (Head Coach: Dave Odom) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: South Carolina 25, Kentucky 23
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Georgia 60 - 51|||||Mississippi State 94 - 78|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats crash in Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Say goodbye to perfection.
Kentucky's quest to run the table in the Southeastern Conference didn't just hit a speed bump after 10 victories, it plunged full speed off a cliff as South Carolina bullied its way past the Cats 73-61 in front of 16,107 fans at the Colonial Center. The loss snapped UK's 19-game conference winning streak and was the first double-digit loss to a SEC opponent since the same Carolina program ripped the Cats by 15 in the 2002 SEC Tournament.
"We are disappointed," junior guard Kelenna Azubuike said. "Everybody is when you have a loss like this. We just have to pick ourselves up and move ahead. We have to learn from our mistakes."
The surprising part of UK's loss wasn't that the Gamecocks took it to the Cats, but that after a lackluster effort in a victory over Georgia in the previous game, UK showed all of the same issues that crept into that performance. Rebounding , missed free throws and a season-high 21 turnovers seemed to reinforce the lack of intensity and focus the team had against Georgia.
"You are not going to beat many people with 21 turnovers and getting slaughtered in the paint the way we were," UK coach Tubby Smith said.
South Carolina (14-8, 6-5) took the role of aggressor from the opening tip, running off the game's first four points before holding on for a 25-23 lead at the break. UK turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, leading to South Carolina putting up 10 more shots at the break. Despite the miscues, UK was still in the game at that point. In the first meeting - a 79-75 UK win to open league play Ð the Cats erased a four-point halftime deficit.
There would be no such comebacks on this night, but it certainly wasn't from a lack of opportunities.
Carolina took control of the game with a 16-4 run to push the edge to 41-29 with 13:30 left as forward Tarence Kinsey hit his career-high fifth three-pointer of the game. UK chipped the lead back to 44-38, but wasted three possessions where it could have cut the lead even further. In that stretch, Randolph Morris and Chuck Hayes both missed the front end of 1-and-1 free throws, Josh Carrier missed a three-pointer and then had a pass from Rajon Rondo go through his hands that would have been an easy lay-up.
"We had the momentum a couple of times, but we gave it away with on blocked shots and missed free throws," Azubuike said. "The game was ours for the taking."
Indeed. Despite struggling mightily to score, UK whittled the lead to 50-45 with just under seven minutes left when Ravi Moss converted a lob pass from Patrick Sparks. South Carolina's Carlos Powell missed two free throws, but Azubuike missed a three, then Sparks had his pocket picked by Powell. After Powell made one free throw to push the lead back to six, Azubuike missed another three and Tre Kelly converted a runout lay-up to make it 53-45. Two possessions later the lead reached 58-45 with 4:17 left and for all intents and purposes, was over.
"It's very shocking," Hayes said. "We thought we were going to be able to bounce back from our performance against Georgia. We have some habits we need to break. Give them credit. Those guys played well with their backs against the wall. They wanted it."
Among those bad habits were 10 missed free throws, the 21 turnovers versus just nine assists, giving up 12 offensive rebounds and allowing South Carolina to dominate the points in the paint 40-22.
Bad habits and mistakes aside, UK has to find a way to move forward.
"We can't get down on ourselves," Azubuike said. "It's up to us. If we get down on ourselves, no (we won't bounce back)."
The surprising part is UK didn't bounce back this time.
Chuck Hayes and Randolph Morris block USCs Tarence Kinsey