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South Carolina holds off Kentucky in stunning upset

Jan 10, 2023; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard Meechie Johnson (5) goes to the basket against Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) during the first half at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Meechie Johnson scored 26 points as South Carolina led wire-to-wire in a 71-68 road win Tuesday night over the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, Ky.

Johnson shot 9 of 16 from the floor and also led the Gamecocks (8-8, 1-2 SEC) in rebounds and assists, with six each. South Carolina was also bolstered by 16 points from GG Jackson II and 11 points from Hayden Brown.

Kentucky (10-6, 1-3) was led by Oscar Tshiebwe’s 19 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. Antonio Reeves added 13 points while CJ Fredrick chipped in 14.

It’s just the third time since South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992 that it has won at Rupp Arena. The last time the Gamecocks were victorious there was 2009. The victory also marks the first in SEC play for first-year South Carolina coach Lamont Paris.

Also, South Carolina snapped the Wildcats’ 28-game home win streak, which had been the longest active streak in the SEC.

South Carolina started the game strong, jumping out to a 13-2 lead before Kentucky called a timeout, then eventually growing that advantage to 21-6. Brown scored seven of his points during that lengthy opening run for the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks led by 10 at halftime but then the Wildcats used a 9-2 run to cut the deficit down to just three points midway through the second quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Johnson and Jackson pushed South Carolina’s lead back to 11 points with under four minutes to play.

Kentucky made one more late run, coming within one point of tying the game with 51 seconds to play. But South Carolina’s Jacobi Wright sank a pair of late free throws and the Wildcats misfired on a pair of 3-point attempts with under 12 seconds to play.

The Wildcats shot just 3-of-10 from 3-point range while the Gamecocks made 11-of-20. South Carolina also won the rebounding battle 32-28 and outscored Kentucky 21-12 in second-chance points.

Kentucky lost despite having just six turnovers to South Carolina’s 15.

Most sportsbooks had Kentucky favored by about 20 points entering this game.

–Field Level Media