Kentucky Smothers South Carolina for 77-43 Win

Feb. 14, 2015

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Top-ranked Kentucky matched the best start in the program's storied history, improving to 25-0 on Saturday when Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points and Aaron Harrison added 11 in a 77-43 rout of South Carolina.

The 1953-54 Wildcats finished the regular season at 25-0 with a team that featured future Naismith Hall of Famers Cliff Hagan and Frank Ramsey, then declined an NCAA tournament bid. A year earlier, Kentucky had been under suspension by the NCAA and canceled its season.

This year's Wildcats are trying to win the school's ninth national championship. They took another step toward their quest for perfection by completing a season sweep of the overmatched Gamecocks (12-12, 3-9 Southeastern Conference).

After holding South Carolina to 27 percent shooting in last month's meeting, Kentucky limited the Gamecocks to just 13 of 55 from the field (24 percent) this time.

The Wildcats (12-0 SEC) needed less than 12 minutes to build a 20-point lead. Dakari Johnson added 13 rebounds and 10 points for Kentucky, which shot 50 percent.

Sindarius Thornwell scored a game-high 20 points for the Gamecocks, who were outrebounded 45-21 and beaten in just about every statistical category except steals (3-2).

The dominant performance was just what Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted from his talented squad after Tuesday night's escape at LSU. On Friday, he voiced his distaste for close wins and challenged the Wildcats to show a ''killer instinct'' with the postseason just around the corner.

Kentucky players got the message and responded with a strong start that put South Carolina in a hole that steadily deepened. The Wildcats led 26-6 with 8:21 left in the first half and never eased off in overwhelming South Carolina on both ends.

It was 43-18 at halftime, and Kentucky poured it on against a Gamecocks squad looking to build off a five-point win over Missouri. Instead, they ended up as the footnote in a history-tying performance that the Wildcats hope to break on Tuesday at Tennessee.