No. 16 Kentucky 71, South Carolina 50
Kentucky was too dominant for South Carolina on Sunday.
The No. 16 Wildcats cruised to a 71-50 win over the Gamecocks on senior day to finish the regular season unbeaten at home for the second time.
``Playing at such a high rate was the difference maker,'' Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. ``When we took control it was an incredible display. We made this an important game and responded with energy and enthusiasm.''
Forward Victoria Dunlap scored 16 points for Kentucky, which led by 22 points as South Carolina shot just 32 percent from the floor and never found rhythm in front of 7,742 at Memorial Coliseum. It was the sixth-largest crowd in school history.
``We just couldn't rebound or defend,'' South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. ``They played with a lot more energy than us.''
The Gamecocks struggled to slow the speedy guards of Kentucky (23-4, 11-3 Southeastern Conference) as they weaved through zone and pressure defenses. South Carolina had no answer for Kentucky's up-tempo style of play.
``We knew going in that we were able to beat them up and down the court,'' forward Amani Franklin said. ``We knew they wouldn't be able to stop us.''
The win avenged a Kentucky loss suffered to the Gamecocks (13-13, 6-7) in January.
Guard Valerie Nainima, who leads South Carolina in scoring at 17.5 points a game, was held to a season-low four points as the Gamecocks dropped their third straight game. La'Keisha Sutton, the Gamecocks' second-leading scorer, finished with just two points.
Kentucky never trailed.
After the game, Mitchell addressed the crowd from midcourt, praising the effort of his two outgoing seniors Franklin and Lydia Watkins.
``I've had the great fortune to have been part of some great wins, but none is as great as today's,'' Mitchell said.
Watkins - who gave birth to a son in the offseason - had 10 points, while Franklin - troubled with an injured knee throughout her Kentucky career - added nine.
``It's remarkable that they're playing at the level they are,'' Mitchell said of both players.
Both seniors average a combined 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats this season.
With the win, Kentucky is proving to be a force in the SEC.
Picked to finish 11th in the SEC in preseason polls, the Wildcats are second in the league behind No. 5 Tennessee with two games to go. On Thursday, Kentucky travels to face the Volunteers.
``We've done things to put this team in the thick of the conference run,'' Mitchell said. ``We started out not expected to do well and it's a credit that we did all this.''