No. 22 Kentucky dominates South Carolina 90-59
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Darius Miller scored a career-high 22 points and No. 22 Kentucky had little trouble in a 90-59 win over South Carolina on Saturday.
Terrence Jones added 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (19-7, 7-5 SEC), who remain unbeaten at Rupp Arena under John Calipari. Kentucky scored the game’s first 14 points and led by as much as 36 to push its home winning streak to 32, the second-longest in school history.
The Wildcats knocked down 11 of 20 3-pointers and had five players score at least 11 points, including junior guard DeAndre Liggins, who didn’t start for the first time this season.
Malik Cooke led South Carolina (13-12, 4-7) with 12 points but the Gamecocks shot just 34 percent from the floor in losing their fifth straight.
Leading scorers Bruce Ellington and Sam Muldrow combined for 13 points on 3-of-17 shooting as South Carolina suffered its worst loss of the season.
Miller’s previous high was 20 in the NCAA tournament against Wake Forest last season, and he’s remained a puzzle this season, mixing solid performances with games where he seems to disappear in plain sight.
That wasn’t a problem Saturday. He hit his first six 3-point attempts and was active on the glass, grabbing nine rebounds and taking it strong to the basket when he got into the lane.
Miller had plenty of help. Brandon Knight added 12 points and set a career-high with nine assists, Doron Lamb threw in 18 while making his second straight start and Liggins appeared to have no problem coming off the bench.
It was more than enough to overwhelm the Gamecocks and ruin coach Darrin Horn’s homecoming.
The Lexington native had a solid contingent of supporters behind the South Carolina bench and received a nice ovation upon his introduction, but the pleasantries ended there.
Kentucky scored the game’s first 14 points as the new-look starting lineup had little trouble doing whatever it wanted against the lifeless Gamecocks. Miller hit a pair of 3-pointers during the run, which was capped by a 3-pointer from Lamb.
Cooke finally got the Gamecocks on the board with a dunk, but it hardly mattered. Kentucky quickly pushed the lead to 20 points regardless of whatever defense Horn drew up.
Kentucky zipped through South Carolina’s man-to-man, deftly passed out of trouble when the Gamecocks went to a halfcourt trap and shot over their 2-3 zone.
Calipari has been on his team to finish off opponents, and the Wildcats did their best to wrap things up early. Knight threw himself into the announcers table while chasing down a loose ball with an 18-point lead. He managed to fling the ball to Liggins for a basket to put Kentucky up 24-4.
Horn called a couple of timeouts to help the Gamecocks regain their composure, but their leaders were nowhere to be found. Ellington and Smith went a combined 0 for 10 in the first half as Kentucky roared into the locker room up 50-21, tied for its biggest halftime lead this season.
There were minor moments of trepidation for Kentucky in the second half as the Wildcats stumbled a bit in the face of South Carolina’s fullcourt press.
Calipari even called timeout once in frustration after a pair of turnovers keyed a 9-0 South Carolina run that trimmed Kentucky’s lead to 55-32. His team’s attention back on the floor, the Wildcats ended any semblance of drama by going on a 9-0 burst capped by a difficult runner from Liggins that put Kentucky up 64-32 and sent some of the faithful home early.