No. 1 South Carolina defeats Kentucky 87-59, completes sweep of Wildcats in regular season for fourth consecutive season


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Robyn Benton (1) high fives forward Adebola Adeyeye (25) during the Kentucky vs. No. 1 South Carolina womens basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. South Carolina won 95-66. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sport Editor

Since beating the Gamecocks in the SEC championship game last March, Kentucky is now 0-2 against South Carolina since losing by 18 points on Thursday night in Columbia, with a final score of 87-59.

 Since the SEC championship victory, the Cats have now lost twice against Dawn Staley’s team by a combined margin of 47 in both games.

 Kentucky entered Thursday night off an encouraging 23-point victory at Memorial Coliseum last week, defeating Missouri 77-54. The emphatic result at home was the Wildcats’ second victory in the SEC this season and the first conference win at home in the last weekend of January. 

 Before gaining its first conference win of the season against Florida on Jan. 15, Kentucky was on a five-game losing streak to begin SEC play. The win was then followed up by a one-point loss at Mississippi State.  The Cats would come home to lose by three to Auburn just three days prior to the Mizzou victory. 

 Hoping to recreate the end of last season where Kentucky would finish on a nine-game winning streak during February and March prior to claiming an SEC Championship, the Wildcats came into Thursday night to start a similar type run to close out this season. 

 Unfortunately for the Cats, this streak will have to wait to begin. Kentucky came into the matchup in Columbia with a starting five of: Maddie Scherr, Nyah Leveretter, Jada Walker, Blair Green and Robyn Benton. 

Kentucky Wildcats guard Maddie Scherr (22) dribbles the ball up the court during the Kentucky vs. Auburn womens basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Auburn won 71-68. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

 South Carolina on the other hand entered with a five of Zia Cooke, Aliyah Boston, Victaria Saxton, Kierra Fletcher and Brea Beal. The Gamecocks took the court against Kentucky on a 27-game win streak which is the longest active streak in the NCAA. 

 Kentucky would open the scoring with two made free throws from Leveretter and a good 3-pointer attempt from Scherr. South Carolina, however, would quickly respond with a long-range three from Beal who would hit another three after a made lay-up from Aliyah Boston to take the 8-5 lead.  

 After exchanging buckets, Kentucky took the lead at 5:14 in the first quarter from a long range three from Green. South Carolina would then take back the advantage for the fifth lead change of the game. 

 After a Cooke layup at 2:33, South Carolina went on a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to force a timeout from Kyra Elzy with the score 24-16. The Gamecocks would end the first quarter on an 11-2 run with a 26-18 advantage heading into the second stanza.

 The start of the second quarter was more of the same from South Carolina who would go on a 6-0 run to force another Kentucky timeout with the score at 32-18 for the largest lead of the night thus far. 

After the timeout, Kentucky would get back into the game and continue to stick around to finish the half down by 15. Kentucky shot 40% from the field in the first half with Robyn Benton leading all scorers. 

Going into the break, the score stood at 50-35. 

 Kentucky started out the second half with a 7-0 run before Boston made an easy bucket to stop the Wildcats’ momentum. Despite the fast start for the Cats, Elzy’s team would find themselves in foul trouble early soon enough with Leveretter committing four fouls and Adeyeye Adebola with three. 

 Blair Green, however, would keep the Cats in the game, going 3-3 from long-range three halfway through the third quarter. Yet, South Carolina continued to show its quality going into the fourth quarter up by 17 with the score at 67-50. 

 The fourth quarter was more of the same from the Gamecocks who would outscore the Cats in the final stage of play. The Gamecocks finished the game on 46% shooting from the field with Boston leading the No.1 team in the country with 14 points and 14 boards for South Carolina’s 28th consecutive win after losing to Kentucky in the SEC Championship last year. 

 In this current winning streak, South Carolina has had an average scoring margin of 33.2 with 12 wins by 40+, proving to be too much for Kentucky to deal with. 

 Kentucky, on the other hand, hit 40% of its shots from the field and hit 6-17 from beyond the arc on Thursday night. Robyn Benton finished as the game’s highest scorer with 24 points.

 With the loss, Kentucky now moves to 10-12 on the season and 2-8 in the SEC as the Cats welcome Alabama at home next Thursday, Feb. 12, with tipoff at Memorial Coliseum set for 7 p.m. EST and can be seen on SEC Network+.