The No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (22-1, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) hit the road as they travel to Columbia, S.C., to take on Darrin Horn’s South Carolina Gamecocks (9-12, 1-6 SEC). Carolina, coming off a tough 74-66 road loss to Florida, will be looking for a season-making win, while the Cats vie to extend their 14-game winning streak and stay unblemished in SEC play.
Kentucky and South Carolina have hooked up on the hardwood a total of 55 times with the Wildcats holding a commanding 45-10 advantage, including four straight victories.
Since 2000, UK has posted 23 wins to only six losses, and since Carolina joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season, the Cats have won 37 games and lost nine. In Columbia, Kentucky has won 17 and lost six.
As the No. 1 team in the country, UK has played South Carolina twice, winning 84-65 in December of 1977 in Lexington and losing 68-62 in Columbia in 2010.
What: No. 1/1 UK (22-1, 8-0 SEC) vs. South Carolina (9-12, 1-6 SEC)
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
Where: Colonial Life Center (18,000)
Game notes: UK | South Carolina
Pregame feature: Vargas focusing on doing “the right things” to make strides
Video interviews: Cal, Lamb and Vargas
South Carolina File
Record: 9-12, 1-6 in SEC
Head coach: Darrin Horn (59-56 at South Carolina)
Player to watch: Malik Cooke (12.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals)
Series history: UK leads 45-10
Last meeting: UK won 79-64 on Jan. 7
- With 35 points against South Carolina in March 2008, Joe Crawford holds the distinction of being the top scoring Cat when taking on the Gamecocks.
- Jared Prickett snared 17 rebounds versus South Carolina in January 1994, setting the UK mark for single-game boards against SC.
- Anthony Epps (February 1995) and Allen Edwards (January 1998) both recorded 12 assists against South Carolina, setting the mark for Wildcat assists versus Carolina.
- Not surprisingly, Anthony Davis, earlier this month, blocked seven shots against South Carolina, making him the top blocking Wildcat when taking on the Gamecocks.
- With 18 made field goals, both Jack Givens (December 1976) and Jamal Mashburn (January 1992) hold the Wildcat record for connections against Carolina.
- Several Cats have made six 3-pointers in a game against South Carolina, and one Wildcat, Tony Delk, did the deed twice in his career (January 1995 and January 1996). Delk is joined on the list by Jeff Brassow (January 1994), Jeff Sheppard (February 1992), Patrick Sparks (February 2006) and Darius Miller (February 2011).
Kentucky has held its last three opponents to 50 points or fewer, the first time that’s been accomplished by a Wildcat squad since the 1950-51 season … Kentucky has won 13 of the last 17 games as the No. 1 team in the nation … UK is 34-12 when playing on the road as No. 1 … The Cats are holding their opponents to 36.0 percent field-goal accuracy on the year, lowest percentage in the country … The last time UK’s defense was so stingy was the 1957-58 Fiddlin’ Five, who, led by Vernon Hatton and Johnny Cox, won the national title … Halfway through the league schedule, UK point guard Marquis Teague stacks up quite nicely when comparing his assist/turnover ratio with Cal’s two previous floor generals, John Wall and Brandon Knight. Teague checks in with a 1.7 ratio. At the same point in the year last season Knight had a 1.4 ratio and Wall had a 1.3 ratio … Anthony Davis has now blocked 108 shots on the season, or 4.7 per game … Davis is currently in 16th place on the all-time UK shot block list, five behind Terrence Jones and 11 behind Reggie Hanson … Davis is only seven blocks away from tying Shaquille O’Neal’s SEC freshman block record of 115.
Sending the stage for a title run: The 1998 SEC Tournament championship game
On March 8, 1998, in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, No. 7 Kentucky entered Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship game against coach Eddie Fogler’s No. 15 South Carolina Gamecocks looking to win the school’s sixth conference tourney title in seven years. Sitting at 28-4 coming into the contest, the Cats were beginning to jell, finding their groove under first-year head coach Tubby Smith.
But, UK would play for its 21st SEC tourney title without its leading scorer, Jeff Sheppard, who severely sprained his ankle in the previous day’s 99-74 rout of No. 16 Arkansas. Sunday’s championship contest would be the third straight game UK played minus one of its starters.
It mattered not, though, as Kentucky never trailed in the game. Behind the red-hot shooting of the UK perimeter players, the Wildcats sprinted to an early 16-6 lead and never looked back. And the Cats, once again, along with taking and making 3-pointers like their tourney life depended on it, defended with a purpose, shutting down all-league Gamecock guard B.J. McKie and Melvin Watson, as the dangerous South Carolina backcourt combined to make only 7-of-22 shots from the field. Overall, the Gamecocks made 36.8 percent of their shots, which followed-up Arkansas’ 34.3 percent shooting against UK in the semifinals.
The Cats led 40-30 after an offensive lull to end the first stanza, but Kentucky guard Wayne Turner — who scored 33 points and dished out 19 assists in the tourney, winning the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award — shifted his game into overdrive out of halftime, propelling UK on a 14-3 run to give the Cats a 70-49 lead and essentially seal the Kentucky victory.
Perhaps hammering home UK’s dominance, the Cats scored the final 15 points of the contest, giving Kentucky its ninth SEC championship in 15 years, 86-56.
Said UK forward Scott Padgett, who made three of UK’s season-high 13 3-point shots in the game, a game in which seven Cats connected from long-distance, “We got tired of hearing about (league) parity. This is our tournament, and we’re going to feel that way until someone proves otherwise.”
Team stats and rankings
(national rankings in parentheses)
|Scoring offense||77.8 (23)||63.0 (277)|
|Scoring defense||57.9 (10)||63.3 (81)|
|FG percentage||48.5 (16)||41.9 (243)|
|FG percentage defense||36.0 (1)||44.1 (236)|
|3-point percentage||36.7 (73)||32.6 (239)|
|3-point percentage defense||30.9 (51)||38.2 (318)|
|FT percentage||71.4 (89)||70.6 (109)|
|Rebound margin||+7.7 (12)||-0.1 (192)|
|Steals per game||6.7 (164)||7.2 (121)|
|Blocks per game||9.3 (1)||5.0 (36)|
|Assists per game||13.2 (148)||10.1 (328)|
|Turnover margin||+0.8 (144)||+1.4 (105)|
|Points per game||Anthony Davis (13.5)||Malik Cooke (12.7)|
|Rebounds per game||Anthony Davis (10.2)||Damontre Harris (5.3)|
|Field-goal percentage||Anthony Davis (65.0)||Damontre Harris (53.7)|
|3-point percentage||Doron Lamb (46.1)||Eric Smith (43.2)|
|Free-throw percentage||Doron Lamb (81.8)||Brenton Williams (85.0)|
|Assists per game||Marquis Teague (4.4)||Malik Cooke (1.9)|
|Blocks per game||Anthony Davis (4.7)||Damontre Harris (2.3)|
|Steals per game||Anthony Davis (1.5)||Malik Cooke (2.0)|
Vargas focusing on doing ‘the right things’ to make strides