The Kentucky Wildcats dropped their first SEC game of the season Wednesday night, an 81-78 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia.
With the win, the Gamecocks got their first SEC win of the season. It has a redshirt freshman to thank. "They'd go one way and I'd go the other", he said. The East Chicago native responded to his coach's call for more aggression out of the point guard spot and spent the majority of his night in attack mode. But they missed eight of their final 10 shots.
SC guard Jermaine Couisnard (5) dribbles the ball as T.J. Moss (1) sets a screen on Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans (0) during the second half an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. SC won 81-78. Richards averages 13 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
"I really didn't know it was going in", Couisnard said.
"I thought we just pounded the boards, we gave ourselves multiple opportunities to make baskets", SC coach Dawn Staley said. "But when I saw it hit the top of the backboard, I knew it was going in". The Cats have now lost at home to Evansville (ranked 246th in KenPom ratings), in Las Vegas to Utah (105th) and now at SC (121st).
"The ball bounced our way for a change", Martin said a game after falling by one at Tennessee. The Cats gave up 56 second-half points.
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Lawson, Maik Kotsar and Jair Bolden (a healthy scratch) combined for five points.
Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts to a play against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. His Wildcats led 46-32 with 15:32 left and 54-41 with 11:39 remaining. However, second-half mistakes in combination with SC going full Katniss Everdeen - catching absolute fire - cost Kentucky. The Gamecocks never trailed after that.
"The insane thing is we still need to have a bunch of adversity hit to know how this group is doing", Calipari said. "I would have been happy". Quickly led Kentucky with 20 points. Totals 24-56 25-36 78.
Minaya added two more baskets between a drive by Lawson and SC was ahead 76-71 with 1:46 to go. Missouri shot 27 percent from the floor in the loss and 3-of-16 from 3-point range, and players at every position had a hard time shaking a locked-in defense to get open looks at the basket. Montgomery had five rebounds, but none came in the second half when he had three fouls and no rebounds in 13 minutes. I was about ready to do that after the loss to Utah, then United Kingdom came charging back and had won four straight games before losing at SC. SC pulled out an 81-78 victory at the buzzer, breaking the hearts of United Kingdom fans. His success against No. 10 Kentucky could mean bigger things ahead for SC.
Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State's USC men's basketball beat writer since October 2017.