LEXINGTON, Ky. – Meechie Johnson hit six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points to lead South Carolina over Kentucky 71-68 on Tuesday night, winning at Rupp Arena for the first time in 14 years and giving coach Lamont Paris his first SEC victory.
The win was just the third for the Gamecocks (8-8, 1-2) in 31 games at Kentucky (10-6, 1-3) and the first at Rupp Arena since January 2009.
Kentucky had its SEC-leading 28-game home win streak snapped in what has been a decidedly disappointing start to the season with its worst start in SEC play since 1986-87.
Gregory “GG” Jackson II added 16 points for the Gamecocks, who shot 48%, making 11 of 20 3-point attempts, outscoring the Wildcats 21-12 on second-chance points and surviving 15 turnovers.
Oscar Tshiebwe scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, his ninth double this season for Kentucky. CJ Fredrick added 14 points and Antonio Reeves 13, both off the bench. The Wildcats shot 51% but made just 3 of 10 from the arc and 7 of 14 from the line.
Kentucky was missing forward Jacob Toppin with a right shoulder injury and guard Cason Wallace left midway through the first half with a lower back issue. Both are double-figure scorers. Toppin’s status is day-to-day.
South Carolina led throughout and was up by 12 with 13 minutes remaining. Kentucky made a couple of runs at the Gamecocks and got within a point with 51 seconds to go after a 10-0 surge with Reeves and Fredrick hitting 3-pointers. Johnson then lost an inbounds pass out of bounds with 20.2 left, the fourth turnover during the Wildcats’ run. But Kentucky missed a pair of 3-point attempts to end the game.
Both teams were coming off lopsided losses to top-10 teams, Kentucky falling to Alabama 78-52 and South Carolina losing to Tennessee 85-42. But only the Gamecocks responded at the start, taking a 21-6 lead in the first seven minutes and a 42-32 halftime edge after shooting 57% with Johnson scoring 16 points.
On Saturday, South Carolina is home against Texas A&M while Kentucky plays at Tennessee.
NOT IN THEIR HOUSE
A fan was escorted from Rupp Arena after holding up a sign that said “Please go to Texas,” directed at Kentucky coach John Calipari, who has been the subject of speculation that he might be a candidate to replace fired Longhorns coach Chris Beard.
Kentucky basketball spokesman Deb Moore said afterward the unidentified man was given the choice of putting the sign away but refused, and chose to leave.