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WBB: South Carolina falls to Kentucky

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

South Carolina dropped its second SEC game of the year, 65-57 to Kentucky.

Going into the fourth quarter, South Carolina appeared to have shaken off a slow start and looked poised to establish control. But repeated defensive lapses doomed South Carolina, which allowed Kentucky to shoot 50 percent in the fourth.

Maci Morris, who scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, drained a three to tie the game at 45, and then converted a traditional three-point play to give Kentucky the lead for good. Taylor Murray added a basket to make it an 8-0 run. Moments later, after a Destanni Henderson three cut the lead to 50-48, Ryne Howard hit a pullup jumper over Alexis Jennings and then a three in transition to retake control of the game.

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Chris Gillespie

“I had a lot to say after the game,” Dawn Staley said. “I’m not very happy.”

South Carolina trailed by as much as nine in a sloppy first half. It had fifty percent more turnovers (12) than baskets (eight), and was a dismal 32 percent from the floor. But the first half was as much about what Kentucky didn’t do as what South Carolina did.

Kentucky only managed to get seven points off those 12 South Carolina turnovers, or just three more points than South Carolina got off half as many Kentucky turnovers. Jennings almost single-handedly kept South Carolina close, scoring nine points. She was the only South Carolina player with more than one made basket.

The Gamecocks slowly came back in the third quarter. Bianca Cuevas-Moore made four consecutive free throws, and then Tyasha Harris beat the defense down the court off a miss for the layup and a 33-32 lead, the Gamecocks’ first since it was 2-0. The Gamecocks led 43-40 after three quarters, and seemed to have finally gotten over the sloppy play.

Henderson and Jennings led South Carolina with 12 points each. Jennings added nine rebounds and three blocks. Henderson had six rebounds and three assists, but also had six turnovers. Harris had 10 points, seven assists, and four rebounds, but shot just 4-12. Cuevas-Moore was even worse, scoring 10 points despite 1-11 shooting, and 0-6 from three. Cuevas-Moore did have three steals and went 8-10 from the line.

For the game, Kentucky shot 40 percent. Howard and Murray each had 17 to lead the way. Kentucky outrebounded South Carolina by eight in the fourth quarter, drawing even after being dominated on the glass all game. As a team, South Carolina shot just 35 percent and turned the ball over 21 times.

“They’re really good at pressuring the ball,” Harris said. “The other guard didn’t stay behind the ball and we tried to force through hands.”

South Carolina lost Te’a Cooper, who missed the Florida game, just four minutes into the game with a sprained ankle. Staley said losing Cooper hurt against the aggressive Kentucky defense.

“We lost an experienced guard, and it situations like this you need an experienced guard, especially one who can attack the basket,” Staley said. “Youth. We’ve seen it before. We’ve handled it better. We just didn’t tonight.”

Notes:

Victaria Saxton got the first start of her career in place of Mikiah Herbert Harrigan. Saxton had seven points and six rebounds. Herbert Harrigan had two points, three rebounds, and a block. … After making her first three-pointer of the season at Florida, Jennings tried another one early in the game Thursday. It went about how you’d expect, barely drawing iron. … The loss ended a nine game winning streak over Kentucky. Kentucky’s last win in the series was in the 2015 season finale, costing South Carolina an undefeated SEC season. … Announced attendance was 11,887. … South Carolina’s next game is Sunday at Tennessee.