For the second time in three years, the Wildcats will carry their No. 1 ranking into Columbia, S.C., to take on the Gamecocks, looking to extend their season-best 14-game winning streak.
Kentucky remained perfect in league play on Tuesday, beating border-rival Tennessee 69-44.
Freshman Anthony Davis led all scorers with 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, seven blocks and three assists.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (16) and Terrence Jones (11) joined Davis in double-figures, while Kidd-Gilchrist tied Davis for game-high honors with eight rebounds. Marquis Teague dished out a game-high six assists in the victory.
The Wildcats opened the game hitting their first 11 shots.
Located in Columbia, S.C., this is the second of two meetings with the Gamecocks this season for the Wildcats.
South Carolina has put together a 9-12 record including a 1-6 mark in league play.
South Carolina is paced by 12.7 points from Malik Cooke. Bruce Ellington adds 11.1 ppg., while Damontre Harris contributes a team-high
The Gamecocks are under the direction of Kentucky native and fourth-year head coach Darrin Horn who has tallied a career mark of 170-102 in more than nine seasons as a head coach. He owns a 59-56 mark in Columbia.
Kentucky owns a 45-10 (.818) record against South Carolina and is on a four-game winning streak in the series.
UK won the earlier meeting this year between the two and swept the Gamecocks last year in the regular season.
Due to the Gamecocks' arrival in the SEC in 1992, South Carolina is UK's second-least played opponent in the SEC (55 games). Arkansas is UK's least-played SEC opponent at 33 games.
Since the 2000 season, the two teams have played 12 games that were decided by eight points or less.
Pre-South Carolina Media Opportunity - Feb. 3
UK Head Coach John Calipari
On whether or not the freshmen have hit the wall at all …
“I think all four of them are doing great. They’re getting better, learning, attentive, focused. I think they’re all the first ones in there because they’re excited about playing. So no, I don’t believe so. They may in February somewhere with the schedule of games we have coming up. We could get hit in the mouth.”
On what he has seen defensively most recently from his players …
“One of the things that’s happening when we’ve got a pretty good lead so we’re grinding it out at the end and that gives that other team, probably, six less possessions which is what we’re trying to do. That’s helping us. I always say, teams that lead the nation in defensive least amount of point, when you watch them offensively they hold the ball. So that other team has way less opportunity. What’s happened to us is seven minutes to go, six minutes to go, we’re pulling it back and grinding out the ball.”
On making sure the team doesn’t overlook any opponents coming up …
“We approach every game the same and I’m going to go in there today like we played North Carolina or anybody else. We’re going on the road. It’s going to be a hard game. I watched their game last night with Florida. They shouldn’t have been in the game and then all of the sudden you turn around and they’ve got the ball and it’s a five-point game. I watched their game with Alabama. They beat Alabama. I watched their game with Mississippi. They had Mississippi beat. If you watch the end of the game, you thought they won. If you didn’t see the score, you said, ‘South Carolina won.’ And they lost and it was the same thing. They’re good enough to beat us and if we don’t come and play one of our better games, we get beat.”
On how South Carolina is better now versus when Kentucky played them last …
“They’ve got two or three guys that are really playing well. Whether it’s [Anthony] Gill who can really get it going offensively, or obviously their point guard, (Bruce Ellington), he can get it going. They have the other wing player who is really scoring baskets, their leading scorer, or their leading rebounder. And then the one kid blocks shots. They have a little bit of everything. I’m a little bit surprised at their record but I’m telling you, when you see they beat Alabama, had Mississippi beat, played Florida on the road and had their chances to win the game, and now have us, I think you see them moving in the right direction and I think you’re going to see them start knocking people off. I just hope it’s not us and that we’re not the first.”
On whether (Bruce) Ellington looks different from last time …
“Yes, when he missed a few it led him to miss another one, another one, another one. He’s not doing that now. He’ll miss two shots and come back and make a shot or two. He’s playing physical, he’s better with the ball, his decision making is better than it was then. He’ll be an issue for us.”
On his thoughts on his team bonding on the road …
“The best thing about when school ends and we have that time together and we’re going three times a day, including a breakfast meal and an evening meal. Then you go on the road and you’re 24/7 for two days and you’re together at meals, at shoot around, at film sessions. They start coming together and that’s why this time of the year, I like it and I really don’t mind going on the road, especially when you’re just trying to bring your team together.”
On what Darrin Horn has been doing at South Carolina …
“He’s been doing fine. It’s a hard job. He’s set the stage for where he wants this to go, he went from man to zone. He’s not afraid to try things. I think he’s doing a fine job. It’s just, South Carolina is hard. It’s a hard deal to get going and that’s why you have to stick with a guy and give him seven or eight years and give him something to get going. I think the last guy to really do some stuff down there may have been, what, Frank McGuire? It’s a good program. It’s a great school, great facilities. It just takes time to get it going right.”