LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)Zia Cooke scored 20 points, and No. 1 South Carolina held 14th-ranked Kentucky to 30% shooting to win 67-58 on Sunday, earning its 21st consecutive victory.
The win, coupled with Mississippi State’s loss to Alabama earned the Gamecocks the Southeastern Conference regular season championship.
The Gamecocks (27-1, 14-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed early before outscoring the Wildcats 17-1 over the final 5:14 of the first quarter. Kentucky mounted several small rallies and got within 49-40 midway through the third, but South Carolina closed with a 10-3 spurt that included consecutive transition baskets by Cooke.
Kentucky (20-6, 9-5) outscored the Gamecocks 15-8 in the fourth but didn’t get within single digits until Rhyne Howard’s 3-pointer with 3 seconds remaining.
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Tyasha Harris and LeLe Grissett each scored 10 points for South Carolina. Freshman Aliyah Boston had 11 rebounds and six points as the Gamecocks dominated the inside 38-14 and won the rebounding battle 38-31 to give 12th-year coach Dawn Staley her 300th victory with the school.
South Carolina also earned its 11th win in 12 meetings vs. Wildcats.
Howard had 24 points and 11 rebounds for Kentucky, which shot 36% or worse in each quarter and just 18% in the fourth. The Wildcats had sought to beat their second top-10 team in as many weeks after beating then-No. 6 Mississippi last Sunday.
South Carolina: As usual, the Gamecocks controlled the paint with the wealth shared between the frontcourt and backcourt. They missed all five shots from beyond the arc, but it didn’t matter as they controlled other areas.
Kentucky: One game after ringing up a season-high 94 points at Mississippi, the Wildcats found chances and points hard to come by against a Gamecocks defense that entered the game ranked 18th nationally. Things were even tougher on the other end as they frequently struggled to keep South Carolina from driving the lane for baskets.
South Carolina concludes its road schedule on Thursday at Florida before finishing the regular season against Texas A&M on Sunday.
Kentucky hosts Georgia on Thursday in its regular season home finale before visiting Vanderbilt on Sunday.
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