COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Devin Downey skipped down the court. His
3-pointer had just put South Carolina up 28 points on Kentucky
midway through the second half, and his team was about to vault
alone into first in the SEC East for the first time in February in
Downey and his teammates soaked up some of the loudest cheers
ever heard at their 6-year-old arena. "I'm just speechless,"
Downey said when asked to recall the moment. "This feels so
The Gamecocks' special season continued on Wednesday night with
a 77-59 win over Kentucky. South Carolina left little doubt it's an
NCAA tournament team, winning the biggest game in Columbia since
the program's only SEC East title in 1997.
South Carolina (20-6, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) set a school
record with 16 blocked shots, forced 20 turnovers, never trailed
and led by at least 18 points for the entire second half in just
its ninth win over Kentucky (19-9, 8-5) in 50 games between the
Meanwhile, the Wildcats find their streak of 17 straight NCAA
tournaments in jeopardy.
"They got their tails kicked tonight, guys. Everybody gets
their tails kicked every once in a while. We'll be better on
Saturday. The world is not ending," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie
said. "We got whipped. Give Carolina credit for how well they
played ... they made us play poorly."
Downey may be South Carolina's SEC player of the year candidate,
and he showed his versatility with five steals and five assists.
But he received plenty of help, especially from Muldrow, who South
Carolina coach Darrin Horn challenged before the game.
"He got dunked on two or three times at Kentucky," Horn said.
"I told him I thought he was better than that in so many words not
Muldrow responded with eight points, 10 rebounds and seven
blocks. Zam Fredrick added 15 for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina swarmed Kentucky inside, and Patrick Patterson
called it the most frustrating game he has ever had. He scored 28
points and had 12 rebounds, but had his shot blocked eight times
and shot 10 of 24, almost all on shots within five feet of the
Gillispie said Patterson got no help from the rest of the team.
"One of the best performances I've ever seen as far as courage,
toughness, determination, willingness to try to help your team
win," the coach said of his sophomore forward.
Kentucky's Jodie Meeks, battling with Downey for SEC player of
the year honors, scored 18 points, playing sparingly once the game
got out of hand.
The Gamecocks pushed Kentucky around all night long.
Leading by 23 with less than 10 minutes to go, the 5-foot-9
Downey swooped between three defenders and hit a high-arching layup
to put South Carolina ahead 68-43.
On the next possession, Muldrow and Mike Holmes had back-to-back
blocks as Kentucky tried to push the ball inside, and then Downey
buried a 3 to give the Gamecocks their biggest lead at 71-43 with 9
minutes to go.
In the next three minutes, South Carolina blocked three more
shots. Holmes also blocked a Patterson hook shot on its way down.
He got called for an obvious goaltending, but the crowd roared
"I really think our bigs were the difference in the game. You
know Meeks and Patterson are going to be good and Fredrick and
Downey are going to do what they do. That's what all-caliber SEC
players do," Horn said. "But I thought our bigs and our bench
were the difference. They were terrific."
The Wildcats have little time to regroup. They need at least a
couple more wins to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday, and
finish with SEC leader LSU, Florida - a team also battling for an
NCAA bid - and Georgia.
The road is much easier for South Carolina, which heads to
Vanderbilt on Saturday, then finishes with Tennessee and Georgia.
Gamecocks fans haven't been this excited since 1997, when they
won the SEC with a 15-1 league record. That team was the only other
one to sweep Kentucky.
Wednesday's game was the biggest in Columbia since that team
knocked off the then-No. 3 Wildcats in overtime. The courtside
celebrities that night were a just-past-their-peak-of-fame Hootie
and the Blowfish, who scrambled over tables to rush the court along
with hundreds of other fans at the old Carolina Coliseum.
The fans stayed in the stands on Wednesday, and Horn planned to
temper the enthusiasm by telling his team this game means little
unless the Gamecocks can keep winning.
"I don't think we need to get too overly excited about it,"
Horn said. "Again, we've got to lay it one brick at a time."
SOUTH CAROLINA 77, KENTUCKY 59
Stevenson 2-5 0-0 4, Patterson 10-24 8-13 28, Harris 2-5 0-1 4, Porter 0-2 0-0 0, Meeks 6-11 2-2 18, Miller 0-2 5-6 5, Slone 0-1 0-0 0, Krebs 0-0 0-0 0, Stewart 0-0 0-0 0, Liggins 0-6 0-1 0, Carter 0-1 0-0 0, Harrellson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-58 15-23 59.
SOUTH CAROLINA (20-6)
Archie 5-7 0-0 12, Holmes 2-5 0-0 4, Muldrow 4-5 0-0 8, Downey 8-18 3-5 21, Fredrick 3-11 8-8 15, Raley-Ross 3-6 0-2 8, Wilder 0-0 0-0 0, Steed 2-3 1-1 5, Baniulis 1-5 1-2 4, Carter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-60 13-18 77.
Halftime-South Carolina 46-28. 3-Point Goals-Kentucky 4-12 (Meeks 4-6, Slone 0-1, Porter 0-2, Liggins 0-3), South Carolina 8-20 (Archie 2-3, Downey 2-5, Raley-Ross 2-5, Fredrick 1-3, Baniulis 1-4). Fouled Out-Holmes, Steed. Rebounds-Kentucky 42 (Patterson 12), South Carolina 36 (Muldrow 10). Assists-Kentucky 11 (Liggins 7), South Carolina 9 (Downey 5). Total Fouls-Kentucky 16, South Carolina 21. A-16,035.