No. 5 Kentucky trounce South Carolina 86-76 in Columbia


Kentucky huddles together during the UK vs. Kansas basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. UK won 80-62. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Hunter Shelton

No. 5 Kentucky extended its winning streak to five games on Tuesday, defeating South Carolina 86-76 in Columbia.  

The victory brings UK’s record to 20-4 (9-2 SEC) while dropping the Gamecocks to 13-10 (4-7 SEC) on the year. 

Six Wildcats would reach double-figures inside Colonial Life Arena, led by 18 points from Player of the Year candidate Oscar Tshiebwe.  

Tshiebwe still maintains his average of over 15 points and 15 rebounds per game. His secret to pulling away from the Gamecocks in the second half was simple, just keep running.  

“If you’re not running, then you can’t stop me,” Tshiebwe said after the win. “In the second half, I did a lot of running, and that’s what made the game a little bit easy.” 

Tshiebwe’s efficiency led the Wildcats on Tuesday, as he made nine of 12 attempts to go along with 14 rebounds. He would dominate the Gamecocks in the second half, collecting a dozen points and boards in 19 minutes played.  

On the other end of the spectrum, point guard Sahvir Wheeler would once again fail to record a made field goal, the third consecutive game that the Georgia transfer struggled shooting the ball. 

Despite the lack of shot making, Wheeler would dish out 11 assists, just four less than Arkansas’ total as a team. It was a topsy-turvy night for Wheeler, as he would also pick up three fouls and five turnovers to go along with his high assist total.  

UK head coach John Calipari can live with Wheeler’s miniscule point totals if he continues to pass the rock like he did in Columbia. 

“There was a stretch that Sahvir did not play well,” Calipari said. “I put him back in and guess what, he goes assist, assist, free throw, all of a sudden it changes the game.”  

Kentucky forward Jacob Toppin led the Cats at halftime with 10 points, but would exit the game toward the end of the half after suffering an ankle injury and would not return. Calipari did not provide any update on Toppin’s status.  

While the Cats never trailed in the final 38 minutes of the game, some of the statistics in the final box score would suggest otherwise.  

The Gamecocks would edge out the rebound battle, winning 41-40. Where SC made a living on Tuesday, was the offensive glass.  

Over half of South Carolina’s rebounds came from the offensive side, as they demolished the Cats 22-8 in second-chance boards.  

Keyshawn Bryant led the Gamecocks in rebounds with 14, while also pouring in a team-high 18 points.

Kentucky would also falter in the turnover department, recording 16 of its own to SC’s 11. 

“At halftime, we walk in, we have 11 offensive rebounds and we have 10 turnovers,” Calipari said. “That’s 23 points, we can’t win games doing that.”  

While the game felt tough and rugged, even finding itself tied at 43 in the second half, the Wildcats would pull away late thanks to lights-out shooting. 

The second 20 minutes saw UK shoot 62.1 percent from the floor, connecting on 18 of 29 shots.  

Keion Brooks Jr made all four of his second half attempts to help the junior finish with 15 points. 

Calipari applauded Brooks’ play as of late, admiring his decision to even return to Kentucky for a third season in the first place.  

“The decision he made to come back is a man’s decision,” he said. “How he’s playing right now, that’s what he should be.”  

While better late than never, Brooks is blossoming into the player that many suspected he would be for Kentucky a year ago. The Fort Wayne, Indiananative is now a vital role in the success of Kentucky’s offense.  

Brooks and Co. will look to continue their hot streak on Saturday, returning home to Rupp Arena to welcome the streaky Florida Gators.  

With Selection Sunday inching closer, Calipari is seeing his team’s hard work come to fruition.  

“It’s going in the blink of an eye,” Calipari said about the season. “We got to enjoy this. We got to know that this is what we are…Kentucky basketball.”  

The Wildcats and Gators are set to tip-off on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. EST.