Kentucky suffers second loss in a row with defeat against South Carolina, moves to 1-3 in SEC


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari stands on the sideline during the Kentucky vs. South Carolina mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. South Carolina won 71-68, ending Kentucky’s 28-game home winning streak. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sports Editor

In a game that was supposed to be a confidence boost for John Calipari’s squad at home on Tuesday night turned out to be anything but, with a crushing 71-68 loss to South Carolina.

The loss snapped a 28-game home winning streak by the Wildcats, the second longest win streak in the nation. The defeat is also the first time since 2007-2008 that the Cats have started 1-2 to begin SEC play.

Kentucky came into Tuesday night as a 19.5-point favorite against the Gamecocks. The upset-minded South Carolina squad however had different ideas jumping out to a 21-6 lead to begin the game.

Shooting 57% from the field and 6-9 from beyond the arc off of 16 first half points including four made threes from five attempts in the first stanza meant South Carolina had a 10-point lead over Calipari’s squad going into the break with the score at 42-32.

After scoring only 42 points in its entire game against Tennessee, South Carolina was able to score the same amount in one half of play against Kentucky. Even worse for Calipari’s team is Kentucky will have to travel to the team that held the Gamecocks to 42 points in 40 minutes this weekend.

“We lost the game in first half.” Calipari said. “I’m not happy, I hate losing. You know we were undermanned, but it doesn’t matter.”

Meechie Johnson shined for the Gamecocks hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 26 points for South Carolina’s first win at Rupp Arena in 14 years and giving coach Lamont Paris his first SEC victory.

UK would have an opportunity to send the game into overtime trailing 71-68 with one final possession. But three attempts from behind the arc all missed the target, beginning the celebration for Paris’s squad.

The loss on Tuesday now means Calipari’s squad has hit a new low in a season that has been tough already for his young team. Calipari still however remains adamant that this team still has the potential to be special while reminding many the challenges of the high expectations at Kentucky.

“Stick with these kids. If you want to get on me, that’s fine. I’m the coach. If we weren’t ready to play, then I’ve got to look at me and say, well, what, why, where were we mentally.” Calipari said. “It’s hard here. I mean, I always say, this isn’t for everybody. Including coaches. It’s not for everybody.”

Oscar Tshiebwe finished with 19 points and 11 boards while CJ Fredrick made his return on Tuesday night from an injury picked up against Missouri scoring a career-high 14 points going 6-9 from the field and drilling both of Kentucky’s made threes.

Antonio Reeves contributed with 13 points with Sahvir Wheeler scoring 10 points and dishing out three assists.

The Cats were shorthanded against the Gamecocks with senior forward Jacob Toppin missing the entire game due to a shoulder injury. In the first half, Cason Wallace injured his back and would miss the entire second half which according to Calipari is due to the freshman guard suffering from back spasms.

In Wallace’s place, Daimion Collins scored two points going 1-4 from the field with an assist and three boards. Despite the ugly loss to USC, Collins still expressed his understanding that being at Kentucky means he will see every team’s best outing when Kentucky is up next on the schedule.

”I mean, every game we play is going be a dogfight, you know everybody is going to come with everything that they got so we just got to like I said, just fight, work, play hard rebound defense. “Collins said. “If we do all those things, you know, win some games”

The loss now means Kentucky will go into Knoxville this weekend looking for the upset win against the No. 5 ranked Vols as well as trying to avoid starting the SEC season 1-4 for just the third time in the program’s history.

With the last time Kentucky starting 1-4 in league play taking place in 1978-1979, the Cats look to avoid making history for all the wrong reasons on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville with tipoff currently set for 12 p.m. ET and will be shown on ESPN.