South Carolina (12-10, 2-7 SEC) fell to Kentucky (16-6, 7-2 SEC) 77-55 in conference action Tuesday night. Despite limited minutes due to foul trouble, freshman forward Michael Carrera led the Gamecocks with 18 points and six rebounds, both were team highs.
Sophomore guard Damien Leonard also snatched a team-high six boards to go with his six points. Junior guard Bruce Ellington scored nine points on the night. Junior guard Brenton Williams recorded his first career SEC start. South Carolina only recorded seven turnovers in the contest, matching a season low previously set against Vanderbilt on Jan. 19.
Kentucky had five players reach double figures. Freshman forward Nerlens Noel notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go with his five blocks. Senior guard Julius Mays scored 15. Two freshmen added 13 apiece, forward Willie Cauley-Stein and guard Archie Goodwin. Sophomore guard Ryan Harrow added 12 for the Wildcats. South Carolina was able to convert 17 Wildcat turnovers into 16 points.
Facing a 7-0 deficit after missing their first four shots, the Gamecocks steadily climbed back into the game, scoring on the next four possessions. Carrera hit a jumper for the first South Carolina basket and drained a 3 after a Kentucky turnover. Junior guard Brian Richardson hit a 3 of his own to pull the Gamecocks to within three at 13-10. Carrera scored over Noel just before the first media timeout to make the score 15-12.
With 10:19 to go in the first half, Leonard hit streaking junior guard Eric Smith for a backdoor layup to give South Carolina an 18-17 lead. The basket prompted a Kentucky timeout.
The Gamecocks did not record their first turnover until the 9:32 mark, but turned it over on their next three possessions, helping Kentucky take a 26-18 lead.
After the Kentucky called the timeout in response to the 18-17 South Carolina lead, the Wildcats went on a 28-6 run over the last 9:38 of the half to take a 45-24 lead into the locker room.
Ellington was relegated to the bench with foul trouble for most of the first half, logging only three minutes of action. Despite only playing seven minutes due to early fouls, Carrera was the Gamecocks' leading scorer, registering seven at the break.
With 14:24 on the clock, Carrera pulled the Gamecocks to within 15 with two free throws at 55-40, but Kentucky reasserted themselves, scoring 8 unanswered points during a 13-1 run. The streak put the Wildcats up 68-41 with 9:16 to go in the game.
Seven quick points on free throws from Leonard and Ellington to go with a 3 from junior forward RJ Slawson helped the Gamecocks close the gap to 18 at 70-52. Kentucky called a timeout with 4:30 on the clock to keep the South Carolina momentum at bay.
The Gamecocks could draw no closer and the Wildcats recorded the 77-55 win.
South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena on Sunday to face Tennessee at 1 p.m. ET as the first part of a hoops doubleheader. The women's basketball team will face Texas A&M after the men's game with a 3:30 ET scheduled start time. The men's conference match up is scheduled to be broadcast on FSN.