Balanced Cats win at South Carolina 86-76

Oscar Tshiebwe turned-in his 18th double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds

COLUMBIA, SC (WTVQ/UK ATHLETICS) – Oscar Tshiebwe posted his sixth straight double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds and TyTy Washington Jr. scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half as No. 5 Kentucky beat South Carolina 86-76 on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (20-4, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) reached 20 victories in a season for the 13th time in the past 14 years. But they had to recover after squandering an 11-point lead to the Gamecocks (13-10, 4-7) early in the final 20 minutes.

Kentucky had lost its previous two games at South Carolina and when Keyshawn Bryant’s bucket tied things at 43-all with 15 minutes left, it appeared the Wildcats might have to sweat out another at Colonial Life Arena.

Instead, Kentucky went on a 15-2 burst fueled by Tshiebwe and Washington, both who played limited first-half minutes due to foul trouble.

Washington broke the tie with a bucket, added a foul shot and then a nifty pass to Keion Brooks Jr. for a dunk. The 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe added a couple of inside baskets and when Washington nailed a 3-pointer, the Wildcats were up 58-47 and cruising to their fifth straight victory – and fourth in a row in league play.

Keion Brooks Jr. had 15 points for the Wildcats. Washington had 12 of his 14 points in the second half while Kellan Grady added 12. In all, Kentucky finished with six players in double-figure scoring.

For as good as Kentucky typically is everywhere else in the SEC, it’s had its troubles at South Carolina. The last visit, it was Jermaine Couisnard’s 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded that lifted the Gamecocks to an 81-78 victory over then then-10th-ranked Wildcats.

Kentucky came out ready to put away South Carolina in the first half and led 39-28 after eight consecutive points by Jacob Toppin.

But it was gone over the next seven minutes as South Carolina put together a 15-4 run.

The Wildcats had 10 turnovers by halftime and were outscored 14-5 off of miscues early on. They tightened up in the second half with only six more turnovers.

Bryant had 18 points and 14 boards while Couisnard added 17 points for South Carolina.

Toppin, Kentucky’s reserve forward, turned his ankle late in the first half and walked awkwardly into the locker room. He did not return to the game.

THE BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats had the speed, smarts and talent to turn things on again when the Gamecocks made it a game in the second half. Behind Tshiebwe and Washington, Kentucky should go deep into the postseason.

South Carolina: It’s been a difficult stretch for the Gamecocks. They were within striking distance of their past two ranked foes at home – 38-37 to No. 19 Tennessee in the second half last Saturday – and wound up losing both by double figures.

To view the box score, click here.

UP NEXT

Kentucky returns home to play Florida on Saturday.

South Carolina plays at Georgia on Saturday.

Team Records, Series Notes, Etc.

  • Kentucky is now 20-4 on the season and has won five in a row. UK is 9-2 in the SEC.
  • South Carolina is 13-10 overall, 4-7 in the SEC.
  • Kentucky leads the series, 54-13, and has won two in a row.
    • UK leads 21-9 in games played in Columbia.
  • Next for UK: the Wildcats play host to Florida on Saturday at 4 p.m. ESPN will televise the game.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky has won five of the last six road games.
  • South Carolina shot 37.8% from the field (31 of 82). UK is 220-24 (.902) under Calipari when the opponent shoots 40 percent or less, including 11-0 this season.
  • Kentucky shot 56.7 percent from the field (34 of 60).  UK is 11-1 this season when making at least 50 percent from the field.
  • Kentucky had six players score in double figures for the second time this season, also vs. Robert Morris on Nov. 12.
  • Kentucky led by as many as 14 points. UK is 305-13 (95.9%) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at any time in the contest.
  • Tonight’s game was a credit to Kentucky’s perseverance.
    • UK was outrebounded 41-40 and gave up 22 offensive rebounds to USC.  It is the third game in a row that UK has been outrebounded, but the Wildcats have won all three.
    • Kentucky also managed to win despite losing the turnover battle, 16-11, and points off turnovers, 23-13.

Player Notes 

  • After a relatively quiet first half (six points, two rebounds), Oscar Tshiebwe had a huge second half and totaled 18 points and 14 rebounds.
    • It is his sixth-straight double-double, first Wildcat to do that since Julius Randle in 2014.
    • It is his 18th double-double of the season, ranking second in the nation in that category.
    • The nation’s leading rebounder has grabbed double-figure boards in all but two games this season.
    • He has 11 straight games with double-figure rebounds, first Wildcat to do so since Dan Issel had 12 in a row in the 1969-70 season.
    • He added two assists, three blocked shots and two steals tonight.  He has had at least two steals in eight straight games.
  • Coach Calipari said that Keion Brooks has become “Steady Eddie” recently.
    • He had 15 points tonight on 6 of 9 shooting and added nine rebounds.
    • He is averaging 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game during UK’s current five-game win streak.
  • TyTy Washington had 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.
    • He has averaged 14.4 points in the 19 wins in which he has played this season, vs. 6.0 points per game in UK’s four losses.
  • Again leading UK in minutes played with 38, Kellan Grady had 12 points.
    • Over the last 15 games he is averaging 13.7 points per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field (70 of 144), including 46.4 percent (51 of 110) from 3-point range.
    • Has made a 3-pointer in 17 straight games, most since Jamal Murray made a three in all 36 games of the 2015-16 season.
    • Grady has made at least two 3-pointers in six straight games.
    • He has led the team in minutes played for the last seven games.
  • Davion Mintz made three 3-pointers, leading to 10 points.  Over the last three games, he has made 8 of 15 from long range.
  • Jacob Toppin sparked the Cats with 10 points in the first half, but did not return after an apparent injury with 1:42 to go in the opening period.
  • Sahvir Wheeler, the SEC leader in assists, had 11 tonight to go along with four points.
    • It is his fourth double-figure assist game of the season, first since Nov. 26 vs. N. Florida.

Coach John Calipari

  • Tonight’s win marked John Calipari‘s 27th on-court 20-win season, his 12th at Kentucky.
  • Calipari is now 359-97 at UK.
    • UK is 293-56 against unranked competition under Calipari.
  • Calipari has an 804-237 all-time on-court record.
  • Calipari has tallied a 376-118 all-time record within conference play as a head coach and owns a 168-52 record since joining the SEC.
  • Calipari is 16-4 against South Carolina.

In the First Half

  • The starting lineup was Sahvir WheelerTyTy Washington Jr.Kellan GradyKeion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe for the 20th time this season.  That lineup now has a 16-4 record.
  • Lance Ware and Jacob Toppin were the first Kentucky substitutions at the 13:19 mark, second time this season that Ware has been first off the bench and it is the 13th time for Toppin.
  • A Washington layup gave UK a 5-4 lead and the Wildcats eventually built an 18-8 advantage.
  • Six straight points from Toppin gave UK its largest lead at 39-28 but South Carolina closed the half with a 6-0 run and the halftime count was 39-34.
  • Toppin led Kentucky in the first half with 10 points but left the floor with an apparent injury with 1:42 remaining and did not return.
  • UK is 19-2 this season when leading at intermission.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
  • South Carolina steadily ate into the UK advantage and tied the game at 43 with 16 minutes left – all totaled a 15-4 run spanning both halves.
  • Kentucky steadied with a 5-0 run, forcing a Gamecock timeout with 14:45 on the clock. Out of the timeout, a Grady steal and stuff made the spurt 7-0 and put UK back ahead 50-43.
  • UK eventually stretched the lead to its largest of the game, 70-56, with 7:52 remaining.
  • The pesky Gamecocks kept battling and pulled within 74-67 but got no closer.
  • Tshiebwe was dominant in the second half with a dozen points and rebounds.

 

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