Kentucky vs. South Carolina scores, takeaways: Gamecocks upset No. 6 Wildcats, ‘Big Z’ struggles in second game

South Carolina confirmed its strong start with a 79-62 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky on Tuesday, as the Gamecocks handed the Wildcats their second consecutive loss. Fans at Colonial Life Arena flooded the court to celebrate the Gamecocks’ highest-ranked home win since defeating No. 1 Kentucky in 2010.

It was South Carolina’s second consecutive win over the Wildcats and the first over a top-25 team for second-year Gamecocks coach Lamont Paris. The program has never defeated a top-10 opponent by more than that.

Talon Cooper led South Carolina (16-3, 4-2 SEC) with 20 points, while Michi Johnson and Jordan Wright added 14 points apiece. The Gamecocks pushed their lead to 20 in the second half against the Wildcats (14-). 4, 4-2) struggled defensively. Robert Dillingham led UK in scoring with 16 points.

South Carolina remained hot from beyond the arc, making 9 of 18 attempts from 3-point range in a 77-64 win at Arkansas on Saturday. The Gamecocks hit 11 of 24 from 3-point range against UK, capping off an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance.

The Wildcats entered ranked No. 6 nationally in 3-point percentage at 40.2% and No. 14 at 10.3 per game. But he shot just 4 of 13 points against South Carolina as the Gamecocks stepped up their defense and frustrated a Kentucky team that scored 105 points against Georgia on Saturday.

Kentucky returns to action Saturday at Arkansas while South Carolina hosts Missouri.

South Carolina makes a statement

South Carolina was picked to finish last in the SEC and has only made one NCAA Tournament in the past 20 years. But just six games into the 18-game SEC slate, the Gamecocks have already equaled their league win total from last season and are trending toward making the Big Dance. Entering Tuesday, South Carolina was projected as the No. 9 seed, according to CBS Sports bracketology expert Jerry Palm. But the resume was still relatively light. Beating Kentucky, which counts as South Carolina’s second Quad 1 win, brings some insulation from the bubble for a while.

Big Z returns to Earth

Kentucky freshman Zvonimir Ivicic made Grand openning On Saturday, he scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting after finally receiving eligibility clearance from the NCAA. But the hype train surrounding Big Z created a quick hurdle against the Gamecocks. The 7-foot-2 Croatian player scored three points on 1-of-3 shooting in just 10 minutes, while committing three fouls. South Carolina defeated Kentucky by 13 when Ivicic was on the field as he got his first taste of a hostile college basketball environment.

defensive problems

If Kentucky is to realize the full potential of its talent, it must improve defensively. All 10 major conference opponents that Kentucky has played have scored 73 points or more. After Tuesday’s loss, the Wildcats dropped to 95th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. In contrast, Tennessee and Auburn, the Wildcats’ top competitors in the SEC title race, are ranked No. 2 and No. 7 in the same metric. In fact, UK was ranked 95th in the SEC at 10th by the conclusion of Wednesday’s games.

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