No. 14 Kentucky falls to No. 1 South Carolina in Memorial Coliseum


Kentucky sophomore guard Rhyne Howard drives the ball past a defender during the University of Kentucky vs. South Carolina women’s basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 67-58. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Braden Ramsey

It was an offensive struggle for the Cats, as only Rhyne Howard managed to score in double figures during the 67-58 loss to top-ranked South Carolina.

Kentucky went an abysmal 16-of-54 from the field (29.6%) as even Howard (5-of-22) couldn’t get a rhythm going. The Cats ended the game making just one of the final 14 shots they took, which was a stat-padding three from the thousand-point scorer right before the final horn.

“We had some trouble with their length,” Jaida Roper said. “We can get better, and just execute better.”

Kentucky jumped on the Gamecocks early, going up 9-4 at the 7:53 mark. But South Carolina dominated the period after that, scoring 22 of the final 27 points, including the last fifteen. A bucket from Lele Grissett to open the second quarter capped off the massive 24-5 run.

“At the beginning of the game, we weren’t pushing the ball,” said Gamecock coach Dawn Staley, who picked up career win number 300 with the victory. “Once we started moving the ball, pushing the ball up the floor… getting the ball to the paint, it opened things up for us.”

The Cats were behind the eight ball from that point on, but didn’t relent. They had a 9-0 run in the middle of the second quarter to cut their deficit to six, but trailed 40-30 at halftime.

The margin remained in the 10 to 14 range for most of the third before Kentucky’s offense went in the tank like had to end the first, going the last 5:05 of quarter three without a made basket.

Then, it was South Carolina’s turn for a no-go offense. The Gamecocks scored just eight points in the final period, including only two over a 6:31 stretch. But Kentucky danced right alongside them to offensive futility’s tune, going basket-less from 8:14 remaining until Howard’s three at the end.  

“I thought we had some chances at some critical points,” coach Matthew Mitchell said. “But we just couldn’t make a bucket.”

South Carolina is now 27-1 on the year, including a perfect 14-0 in the SEC. The Gamecocks dominated Kentucky in paint points (38-14) so much that they attempted only five threes, and won without making a single one.

Kentucky dropped to 20-6 overall and 9-5 in conference, falling out of double-bye position to fifth in the standings.

“Just learn from all the things that went wrong today, get better,” Mitchell said. “We have to keep fighting for one of these top four seeds.”

The Cats next game is Thursday evening versus Georgia. It’s Senior Night for the team, and Mitchell wants to make sure there’s a big crowd to celebrate this class’s achievements.

“We have five really special seniors,” he said. “A big crowd in their seats early Thursday would be a great way to send [them] out.”

Tip is set for 7:00 p.m. The game can be seen on SEC Network+.