- Thursday, February 25 2010 -
South Carolina - 61 (Head Coach: Darrin Horn) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 82 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 2nd by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 37, South Carolina 26
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Vanderbilt 58 - 56|||||Tennessee 65 - 74|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK avenges lone loss, beats South Carolina
Try as it might Kentucky downplayed the desire to avenge its only defeat of the season, insisting through gritted teeth and sly grins there was no extra incentive to deliver a pounding to South Carolina.
No one believed them, but the Cats took care of business anyway pulling away from the scrappy Gamecocks for an 81-62 victory to move within one victory of locking up at least a share of their 44th Southeastern Conference regular season championship.
While the UK players were out for a measure of revenge the Rupp Arena crowd sounded as if it were out for blood, roaring with delight as the Cats raced up and down the floor and lustily booing Downey every time he touched the basketball. The Gamecocks (14-13, 5-8) may not have the same traditional rivalry with UK as SEC programs like Tennessee and Florida but you wouldn't have known it by the atmosphere in the storied gym.
"You could tell it was a totally different vibe than any other game we've played in here," UK freshman forward Daniel Orton said. "With the fans especially (there was revenge), but for us we wanted to prove to ourselves we have gotten better and learned lessons from our past mistakes."
Despite the frantic environment UK struggled to put the Gamecocks away until the final 10 minutes when a six-point edge exploded to as much as 23. South Carolina's refusal to go away quietly hinged on Downey's relentless assault that ended in him getting 26 points, including 15 after halftime, despite taking 25 shots. Unlike the prior engagement in Columbia Downey was a lone solider for most of the evening as UK kept the rest of the Gamecocks not named Lakeem Jackson from having the type of nights they had last month.
"Take your 30 and we win the game, we're happy and go," UK coach John Calipari said. "I'm not worried about stopping one player, I'm worried making things difficult for him and let's go and play the other guys. He was nine-of-25. You take 25 shots, you know..."
Meanwhile, UK had one of its most balanced victories as Patrick Patterson (23 points, 8 rebounds), DeMarcus Cousins (19 points, 11 rebounds), Darius Miller (7 points, 8 rebounds), John Wall and even Daniel Orton all played significant roles.
The game continued the season-long pilgrimage of celebrities to Rupp with Basketball Hall of Famer and original 'Dream Team' member Earvin 'Magic' Johnson and Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the crowd. Former UK football players Keenan Burton and Jeremy Jarmon were also amongst the late tip-off crowd. Like LeBron James before him, Johnson did the traditional 'Y' in 'KENTUCKY' before breaking into the John Wall Dance.
Despite all the hoopla surrounding the game the Cats sounded like a team ready to get to the part of the season where legacies are cultivated.
"This is kind of like the dog days of the season," Calipari said. "We've got three or four games left and you're just trying to get this done. Let's get on with that other tournament and I'm not talking about the one in Nashville. Let's get on with that other tournament. It's a grind right now."
A grind maybe, but one that was made a lot smoother with a little payback.
Patrick Patterson drives to the basket
DeMarcus Cousins dunks
Earvin "Magic" Johnson is the Y and manages to include the John Wall dance