Hoops Falls Short in Upset Bid of Top-Ranked South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Defending Southeastern Conference player of the year Tiffany Mitchell scored 13 of her 19 points in the second half to help No. 1 South Carolina to a 68-60 victory over No. 10 Kentucky on Sunday.
Mitchell shook off a 2-of-7 shooting performance in the first half to keep the Gamecocks perfect at 16-0 this season after trailing at the half for just the third time this season. Mitchell opened the second period with a basket as South Carolina (4-0 SEC) took off on a 15-6 run to take control.
The Wildcats (14-3, 3-1) closed to 50-46 on Jennifer O'Neill's bucket with 11:11 left. But Khadijah Sessions followed with her third 3-pointer to restore South Carolina's margin and Kentucky could get no closer.
The game was marred by a gruesome-looking left ankle injury to Kentucky junior Janee Thompson. She left the court on a stretcher. O'Neill scored 13 to lead Kentucky.
Thompson's teammates, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and leading scorer A'ja Wilson ran out to console the sobbing player as she was helped onto the stretcher and rolled off the court. A short time later, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell was ejected from the game after loudly arguing with officials.
Sessions finished with 12 points and Aleighsa Welch had nine points and 11 rebounds for South Carolina.
South Carolina came out shooting well, Khadijah Sessions hitting a pair of 3s as the Gamecocks took a 16-12 lead. That's when Kentucky and O'Neill put together a 20-9 run to take control.
O'Neill, a former starter who's come off the bench in SEC play, opened the surge with a 3-pointer and had two more buckets in the run. When O'Neill closed things with jumper with 4:24 to play, Kentucky was up 32-25 over South Carolina.
The Gamecocks got within a point, 36-35, with 14 seconds left in the period, but Thompson drove past three defenders to put the Wildcats up 38-35 at the break. It was just the third time South Carolina had trailed after 20 minutes this season, all to ranked opponents.
The Gamecocks rallied from their two previous times to defeat No. 21 Syracuse in November and No. 13 Duke last month.
South Carolina's first-half shooting struggles matched those of its two top scorers. Wilson, the country's No. 1 recruit last season, was 1 of 6 from the field while defending SEC player of the year Mitchell was 2 of 7 shooting. Wilson ended with eight points on 3 of 13 shooting. She also had nine rebounds.
Kentucky went cold during South Carolina's second-half rally, making just three of its first 19 shots to fall behind.
Kentucky: The Wildcats fell to 1-17 all-time against No. 1 opponents, their only victory against top-ranked teams coming over Tennessee in 2006.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won 26 straight games at Colonial Life Arena, the longest active such streak in the country.
Kentucky returns home to play Florida on Thursday night.
South Carolina hits the road to play Missouri on Thursday night.