Jan. 17, 2018
Men’s Basketball vs. No. 18/16 Kentucky
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Kentucky coach John Calipari thought his freshmen looked like freshmen for the first time all season. South Carolina’s Chris Silva continued to look like a major force in the Southeastern Conference who led the Gamecocks’ dramatic second-half comeback against the Wildcats.
Silva tied his career high he set earlier this month with 27 points as South Carolina (12-6, 3-3 SEC) rallied from 14 points down in the second half to top No. 18 Kentucky 76-68 on Tuesday night.
Silva ”was the difference,” Calipari said. ”He manhandled everyone we put on him.”
It didn’t look like it would have an impact midway through the second half when Kevin Knox’s short jumper with 12:28 to go put the Wildcats ahead 54-40. But that’s when South Carolina, fueled by the powerful, 6-foot-9 Silva, got going and outscored Kentucky (14-4, 4-2) 36-14 the rest of the way to pull off the upset.
Silva had 12 points in that stretch to lift the Gamecocks.
As well as Silva played, Kentucky’s vaunted group of freshmen began trying to make the splashy, dramatic play instead of the smart one, Calipari said. As South Carolina gradually cut into the margin, the Wildcats shrunk from the challenge.
”All of a sudden, you’ve got a bunch of young guys that don’t know how to grind it,” Calipari said.
That was evident when Wesley Myers’ driving layup tied the game at 65-all and he followed that with a second straight layup for the Gamecocks’ first lead of the second half, this one ruled good when Kentucky’s Nick Richards was called for goaltending.
Maik Kotsar made four straight foul shots to give South Carolina a 71-67 lead and Kentucky could not respond.
”We weren’t listening to nothing the coaches were saying,” Knox acknowledged.
The Gamecocks broke a four-game losing streak to Kentucky, which managed just three points over the final 6 minutes.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin talked with Silva at halftime, urging him to go straight up and over Kentucky’s defenders instead of putting up shots away from the basket. ”He told me to go strong and finish,” Silva said.
All the Gamecocks seemed to follow Silva’s lead.
”Our guys took ownership,” Martin said as the Gamecocks won for third time in four games after opening SEC play 0-2.
Frank Booker added 18 points for South Carolina.
Knox led Kentucky with 21 points. No other Wildcat had more than 10 points.
Kentucky: The Wildcats had little consistency with their shooting touch. But their relentless style helped them claw back from an early 19-12 deficit to lead 37-34. The active Kentucky lineup pushed the pace and made the Gamecocks pay for putting them on the free throw line, going 17 of 22 in the first 20 minutes. Things changed down the stretch as Kentucky’s freshman-heavy team struggled to keep up with the Gamecocks. The Wildcats were just 6 of 14 from the free throw line after the break.
South Carolina: When the Gamecocks miss shots, they’re in trouble. After starting the game 7 of 9 from the field, South Carolina missed 18 of its final 21 shots of the opening half. That helped turn a seven-point lead into a 37-34 deficit at the break. Shooting woes have plagued the team much of the season. In fact, the Gamecocks shot just 27 percent from the field last time out and somehow pulled out a 64-57 victory at Georgia on Saturday. The Gamecocks shot just 37.1 percent in this win.
Clinging to a three-point lead with 2:47 to play, the Gamecocks finished the game 9-for-10 at the free throw line. Carolina made 25 foul shots, one shy of its season-high 26 makes in last Saturday’s road win at Georgia (Jan. 13).
- South Carolina improves to 11-0 during the 2017-18 season when scoring 70-plus points.
- The Gamecock defense held Kentucky to zero field goals the final 6:13 of the game.
- Carolina held Kentucky to a season-low nine percent (1-for-11) shooting from the 3-point line. In the past two games, the Gamecocks have held their opponents to 17 percent (4-for-23) from behind the arc.
- Junior big man Chris Silva matched a career-high with 27 points. He also tied a career-high with 35 minutes (third time this season).
- Graduate transfer Frank Booker had another great game off the bench, scoring 18 points (nine in each half). His six free throws were a season-high.
- Sophomore forward Maik Kotsar was fantastic on both ends of the floor, finishing with 12 points (season-high in SEC play), six rebounds and three steals. The Tallin, Estonia, native, had a career-high six makes on nine attempts at the free throw line.
South Carolina continues its homestand on Saturday when No. 21/21 Tennessee travels to Columbia. Tip time vs. the Vols is set for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst) on the call.