No. 1 Wildcats Smash South Carolina in Columbia, 86-52
Feb. 4, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Anthony Davis couldn't believe all the Kentucky blue he saw around South Carolina's home court, so he and the No. 1 Wildcats put on a performance that would've drawn several standing ovations at Rupp Arena.
Davis had 22 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks to lead top-ranked Kentucky to its 15th straight victory, 86-52, over the Gamecocks on Saturday night.
Doron Lamb had 18 points, Terrence Jones 16 and the Wildcats (23-1) shot 51.6 percent as they moved to 9-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in seven years in what coach John Calipari said was his team's best performance this season.
"It didn't matter who we played, somebody was losing by 30," Calipari said.
Davis, the 6-foot-10 freshman, was a big reason why. He finished several alley-oops in the first half as Kentucky opened 52-25 lead and was there to swat away several shots by the Gamecocks, who made only nine field goals in the opening period.
Davis said the Wildcats got a fast boost by Kentucky's fans, who made up at least half the 16,527 who turned out at the Colonial Life Arena.
"I'm not used to this," Davis said. "I thought, `It feels like a home game in here."'
If Kentucky keeps playing like this, expect the team's fans to turn out on the road even more than they already do.
Davis made his first nine shots, finishing 9 of 10, and added two steals.
Davis, who sat for long stretches of the second half, got back in the game with about 6 minutes to go and looked as though he might have a chance at the program's second-ever triple double. But when he took a hard spill on a collision with Anthony Gill, Calipari took his prized freshman out for good to the applause of several thousand Wildcats fans.
Calipari was talked into putting his star back in to try and match Chris Mills' feat - he had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Austin Peay in 1988 - and did not hesitate yanking Davis when he crash landed.
"Do you care about that?" Calipari asked Davis about a triple-double. The freshman shook his head no.
"Yes he does," Calipari cracked to the media.
It might be harder for Davis to get one down the stretch, though. Five of Kentucky's remaining seven league games are against Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State - the SEC's other ranked teams.
Damien Leonard scored a career-high 19 points for South Carolina (9-13, 1-7).
Davis and the 6-9 Jones did most of the damage as Kentucky got things in hand early on. The two combined for eight dunks in the first half, including four straight during one stretch of the period as Kentucky moved in front 23-10 with 13:12 remaining before the break.
"I just think everybody began the game with a lot of energy," Jones said.
South Carolina made one last drive to get back in it when Leonard hit a pair of 3s that cut the lead to 25-18.
The Wildcats then took off on a 17-2 run the next six minutes - Jones scored nine of the points and Davis five - to take control.
Davis didn't stop with a big lead, either. He grabbed a rebound from about 18 feet out as the shot-clock buzzer sounded and glided in for his fifth jam of the period to increase Kentucky's margin to 52-25 at the break.
The Gamecocks, who have just one senior on the roster, appeared shell-shocked through most the period. The team's best inside presence in 6-9 Damontre Harris played only seven minutes after getting three fouls. Malik Cooke and Bruce Ellington, South Carolina's top two scorers, were a combined 1 of 10 from the floor for 3 points. They ended with eight points, 16 fewer than their combined averages coming in.
Kentucky kept it going with an 11-4 run to open the second half and eventually grew the lead to 41 points as the large Wildcat contingent of fans shouted, "Go Big Blue!" in the final minutes.
The Wildcats have rolled since their only loss of the season, 73-72 at Indiana back on Dec. 10, with 14 straight wins. That's included a dominant first half run through the SEC, winning seven of their nine league games by 13 points or more.
The Gamecocks who opened league play 0-4 for the first time since 2007 seemed to find some confidence in their play last week with their first league win, 56-54 over Alabama, and a last-second, 66-62, loss at Ole Miss. They put on a strong showing but fell again two days ago at No. 12 Florida, 74-66.
Instead, it was the worst home loss of coach Darrin Horn's four seasons and a vast difference from the last time No. 1 Kentucky showed up here.
In 2010, Gamecocks point guard Devan Downey scored 30 points in a stunning, 68-62 victory that quickly ended the Wildcats first time atop the rankings in seven seasons.
The basketball Gamecocks began a trend of toppling No. 1s that swept through the athletic department in 2010. The baseball team defeated No. 1 Arizona State on the way to a College World Series crown. And the football team beat No. 1 Alabama that fall as it won the SEC Eastern Division.
None of that mattered to these Wildcats, who won their fifth in a row over South Carolina. Horn said Kentucky had improved dramatically over the past month since the Gamecocks 79-64 loss at Rupp when South Carolina outscored the Wildcats in the second half.
"They played outstanding," Horn said. "They looked like the No. 1 team in the country."