No. 16 Kentucky women hold off No. 13 Gamecocks 65-57
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Kentucky seniors Taylor Murray and Maci Morris were winless against South Carolina in their careers.
With a little help from a freshman, they made sure their careers didn’t end that way.
Murray scored 17 points and Morris had 10 of her 12 in the fourth quarter and No. 16 Kentucky ended a nine-game losing streak against No. 13 South Carolina on Thursday night, beating the Gamecocks 65-57 for their first win in Columbia since 2012.
“If feels great. I’m just so proud of our team for continuing to fight,” said Morris, who made all three of her baskets in the fourth quarter after missing her first eight shots. “Even when we got down we just stayed positive. We fought through adversity and we got the win.”
Morris is from rural Kentucky and Murray is a city girl from Maryland but they mesh well on the court.
“It’s a different dynamic, she needs me to pass her the ball and I need her to score the ball so I’m going to find her any way possible,” Murray said. “We just feed off each other. She’s a really good shooting guard and I’m a really good point guard.”
Freshman Rhyne Howard also had 17 points for the Wildcats (22-5, 9-4 Southeastern Conference).
Alexis Jennings and Destanni Henderson had 12 points apiece for the Gamecocks (19-7, 11-2), who played the second half without leading scorer Te’a Cooper because of a sprained ankle.
Howard had 10 points as the Wildcats took a 30-24 lead at the half. The Gamecocks shot 32 percent and had 12 turnovers.
South Carolina went 8 of 11 from the foul line in the third quarter and outscored Kentucky 19-10 to take a 43-40 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t do so well in the third quarter. We didn’t let that stop us,” Murray said. “We stayed positive. We just kept rolling, just kept going at them. That’s what we needed to do.”
Murray and Bianca Cuevas-Moore swapped baskets before Morris hit a 3-pointer and converted a 3-point play on consecutive possessions to put Kentucky up for good. Murray scored to cap an 8-0 run.
Henderson had a pair of 3-pointers for South Carolina but in between Howard scored on a jumper and hit a 3 and Kentucky led 55-51 with less than four minutes to play. Morris hit a 3-pointer and Amanda Paschal made two free throws to push the lead back to nine nearing the three-minute mark. Henderson’s 3 with 2½ minutes left cut the deficit to five but in the last 1:09 the Wildcats made 5 of 6 free throws and the Gamecocks missed four straight shots.
“South Carolina has always been a really tough team, really physical,” Morris said. “We just knew coming in that we were going to have to match the energy and I think we did a good job with that.”
Kentucky: To win their fifth straight, the Wildcats made 6 of 12 from distance and 13 of 14 from the line. … The shorter Wildcats matched South Carolina with 34 rebounds. Murray led the way with eight rebounds, tying her season high. Murray also had five assists and four steals.
“(Murray) comes up so big for us … when we need her to do something she gets it done,” Morris said. “I’m just so proud of her.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks were just 5 of 20 from 3-point range. Freshman Victaria Saxton made her first start and scored seven points with six rebounds. … Kentucky’s other home losses were against Top 10 teams Maryland and now-No. 1 Baylor. South Carolina won the first meeting 74-70.
Kentucky: It will be Senior Day for the Wildcats on Sunday before playing LSU.
South Carolina: At Tennessee on Sunday.