Gamecocks top Kentucky at Rupp for first time in 14 years

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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.

UP NEXT

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.

Nkamhoua’s perfect game leads No. 8 Vols to 85-42 victory

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Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Olivier Nkamhoua scored a season-high 21 points on 10-of-10 shooting and No. 8 Tennessee dominated from the start for an 85-42 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.

The Vols (13-2) started 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in four seasons and showed the depth and talent to think that streak in the rugged league could continue.

Nkamhoua, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, led Tennessee with 10 rebounds for his second double-double this season.

Nkamhoua, who went 5 for 5 for 10 points in an 83-57 win over Mississippi State on Tuesday, continued his run of perfection against the Gamecocks.

He was a major part in the Vols’ quick start, scoring seven points the first 10 minutes as Tennessee built a 24-7 lead on the way to its ninth victory in the past 10 games with South Carolina (7-8, 0-2).

The Vols broke out to a 15-3 lead and never looked back.

South Carolina missed 10 of 11 shots during one stretch and settled for outside shots, which the Gamecocks struggled to connect on as they were 1 of 13 on 3s the first 20 minutes.

Tennessee took advantage of South Carolina’s defensive lapses to build a 43-21 lead at the break.

Nkamhoua hit all five of his shots and the Vols shot 60.7% (17 of 28) in the opening half.

Tennessee was in such command that coach Rick Barnes called a timeout – the Vols led 40-21 – with 15.5 seconds before halftime to practice a late-game situation. It worked perfectly as the Vols worked the ball around to Santiago Vescovi, who drained an uncontested 3-pointer as the clock ran out.

Jonas Aidoo had 15 points, while Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James added 12 apiece for the Vols, who shot better than 50% for the third time in the past four games.

Meechie Johnson had 19 points for South Carolina.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Vols have the deep, skilled roster necessary to win championships. The trick for Barnes will be keeping them engaged in the grind the next two months before the SEC and NCAA Tournaments take off.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks spent too much time in this one shooting from way outside – with predictable results for a team ranked last in SEC shooting. South Carolina went just 2 of 20 on 3s and five-star freshman Gregory “GG” Jackson finished with on points on 0-of-7 shooting.

UP NEXT

Tennessee is home Tuesday to face Vanderbilt.

South Carolina plays at Kentucky on Tuesday.

No. 1 South Carolina women reach milestone in AP Top 25

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina maintained its hold on top of The Associated Press Top 25 women’s poll, reaching a milestone in the process.

The Gamecocks have held the No. 1 spot for 27 consecutive weeks, which is the fifth longest run all-time. UConn has three of the top four streaks, including the record 51-week run from Feb. 18, 2008-Dec. 10, 2010. Louisiana Tech has the second longest streak of 36 weeks. The Huskies also had 34-and 30-week runs at No. 1.

South Carolina started last season at No. 1 and hasn’t relinquished the ranking since, including a week a year ago when they lost a game, but remained the top team.

The Gamecocks have now passed Texas’ 26-week run to move into fifth all-time. They’ve gone 17-0 against Top 25 teams over the past two years, including a 3-0 mark this season.

The top five teams in the poll remained unchanged as Stanford, Ohio State, Indiana and Notre Dame stayed behind the Gamecocks, who garnered all 28 votes from a national media panel. South Carolina (12-0) hosts Texas A&M.

While every team had a light week because of the holidays, conference play picks up now. The Buckeyes face rival No. 14 Michigan after playing Northwestern. The Wolverines made the biggest jump, moving up five spots after beating then-No. 6 North Carolina in the Jumpman Invitational. The Tar Heels fell to 13th.

North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, UConn, LSU and UCLA round out the top 10.

LSU will face its first ranked opponent of the season when the Tigers visit No. 24 Arkansas. The Razorbacks fell seven spots in the poll after losing to both Oregon and South Florida last week. It was the first two losses of the season for coach Mike Neighbors’ team.

ELITE COMPANY

Iowa star guard Caitlin Clark matched Elena Delle Donne as the fastest player to reach 2,000 points in her career, according to the school. Both players did it in their 75th game. Clark made the 242nd 3-pointer of her career to get to the milestone. Kelsey Plum holds the NCAA record with 3,527 points in her career.

“Elena Delle Donne, she’s a person I idolized growing up. I have her shoes in my locker, I wear them,” Clark said after the game. “She actually just sent me a pair shoes that are dedicated to Lyme disease. Elena Delle Donne has battled Lyme disease in her career. She’s an awesome human.”

AILING AURIEMMA

UConn hopes to have coach Geno Auriemma back when the eight-ranked Huskies visit No. 21 Creighton.

Auriemma missed the last two games, both UConn wins. The school said he began experiencing flu-like symptoms after shootaround on Dec. 18 before the Huskies faced Florida State. Auriemma’s 91-year-old mother died on Dec. 8.

“There’s been a lot going on in the last couple weeks, and I think it caught up to me physically,” the 68-year-old Hall of Famer said in a statement. “I’ve been feeling under the weather for about 10 days now, and my doctor recommended I take a few days off to fully recover. CD (longtime associate head coach Chris Dailey) and the coaching staff will continue to do a phenomenal job in my absence, and I look forward to returning to the team in a few days.”

Dailey has gone 15-0 in games that Auriemma has missed.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

South Carolina, Stanford top women’s Top 25; IU, UNC jump up

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina remained No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll Monday after a chaotic week that saw half of the top 10 teams lose at least one game.

The Gamecocks again were the unanimous choice, receiving all 29 votes from a national media panel after edging No. 2 Stanford in an overtime thriller Sunday. South Carolina has now won 16 consecutive games against ranked teams dating to a 2021 loss in the Final Four to Stanford, which remained second in this week’s poll.

UConn moved up two spots to third after beating then-No. 3 Texas and 10th-ranked N.C. State last week. Ohio State is fourth and Iowa State is fifth.

There have already been eight losses by teams ranked in the first 10 this season, the most before Thanksgiving since 2000 according to ESPN. Of the eight losses, three have come against unranked teams. Seven top 10 teams lost before Thanksgiving last year.

Huskies coach Geno Auriemma sees losses by the top teams as a good thing for the sport.

“It’s great sign for women’s basketball, I think that now you can’t just walk into the gym and you know, roll it out there and go, `Yeah, well, we’re a top 10 team in the country, and we can just roll over (you). Just because you’re unranked,”‘ he said. “I think those days are over.”

Auriemma sees the trend continuing as the season progresses.

“I think if this keeps up, that’s the kind of thing that’s made March Madness,” he said. “The madness that is on the men’s side, right. And we need some of that madness on the women’s side. More of it.”

Indiana jumped six spots to No. 6 while Notre Dame, North Carolina, Iowa and Louisville round out the top 10.

The Longhorns have dropped three consecutive games and fell 16 spots to 19th in one of the biggest falls since the AP Top 25 became a writers’ poll in 1994-95. Tennessee, which is 2-3 for the first time since the 1981-82 season, dropped 12 spots to No. 23.

The Lady Vols lost two games last week, including falling to UCLA in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Bruins vaulted into the poll at No. 19.

Like many teams across the country, Texas and Tennessee welcomed in a few new players from the transfer portal and it takes for them to adapt.

“You’ve got a lot of teams now that because of the transfer portal, they’re getting really good players. But they’re trying to learn how that new school plays, what the standards are,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz, who has two transfers of his own. “And it makes it different, in my opinion.”

Kansas State entered the poll at No. 25 after beating then-No. 4 Iowa last week. Oklahoma and Nebraska fell out of the poll.

TOPPING RANKED TEAMS

The Big East improved to 6-0 against Top 25 opponents this season. UConn and No. 16 Creighton each have two while No. 23 Villanova and Marquette each have one. The Golden Eagles are just outside the Top 25 this week.

RISING HEELS

North Carolina moved up five spots to eighth, its best ranking since 2015 when the Tar Heels were also eighth. They are playing in Oregon on Thursday in the Phil Knight Invitational and then either Iowa State or Michigan State on Sunday.

FEAST WEEK

Many of the top women’s teams are playing in tournaments around the country as well as Mexico and the Bahamas this week.

Boston rallies No. 1 South Carolina past No. 2 Stanford

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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STANFORD, Calif. – Dawn Staley pulled her South Carolina women close into the huddle and asked them to fight.

Aliyah Boston heard that one-word request and took charge when it mattered most, delivering as she has day after day during a decorated career.

Boston overcame early foul trouble to score 14, including the tying jumper with two seconds left in regulation, Bree Hall hit a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left in overtime, and No. 1 and defending champion South Carolina rallied past second-ranked Stanford 76-71 on Sunday in a dramatic early-season showdown.

“In the huddle coach was like, `You gotta fight, you gotta fight,”‘ Boston said, “and that was our mentality.”

South Carolina’s Victaria Saxton missed both free throws with 24.3 seconds left but a jump ball moments later gave possession to the Gamecocks (4-0). Stanford got a chance with 10 seconds left after Agnes Emma-Nnopu’s steal but Haley Jones couldn’t get the ball inbounds before a 5-second violation.

Stanford (5-1) then blew another opportunity, receiving a technical with 3.4 seconds left after Kiki Irifen called a timeout in the backcourt it didn’t have.

VanDerveer’s Stanford team led most of the afternoon but couldn’t deliver the winningest women’s basketball coach and Hall of Famer her 1,163rd career victory.

“This might be a team that’s just not ready to be No. 1,” VanDerveer said, “so we have to be hungry as No. 2.”

Cameron Brink scored Stanford’s first four points in overtime and finished with 25 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots. But she fouled out trying to swat a shot with three minutes remaining.

Stanford managed just seven fourth-quarter points.

South Carolina’s Brea Beal made a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left in the fourth. Jones then missed the first of two throws with 12.5 seconds remaining. After that, South Carolina had one more chance – which Boston ran with to force overtime.

VanDerveer and Staley wore long-sleeve white T-shirts featuring Brittney Griner’s name and image in support of the WNBA star who is incarcerated in Russia.

Ashten Prechtel came off the bench to block five shots and grab seven rebounds as Stanford saw its 17-game home winning streak end at Maples Pavilion, which held a standing-room-only sellout crowd of 7,233 for the nationally televised matinee.

“This is what women’s basketball is about, has been about, and now is the time that the product we’re putting on the floor should be seen by as many eyes as possible,” Staley said.

Zia Cooke’s layup with 7:54 to go in the fourth got the Gamecocks within 54-50, then neither team scored for nearly the next four minutes. Both missed high-percentage opportunities while facing stingy defense.

Cooke’s next basket at 2:54 ended the field-goal drought. Averaging a team-leading 16.5 points, she scored 13 points but shot just 3 of 13.

Brink made 5 of her first 7 shots and had 12 points after the first quarter.

“There’s a lot we left out there on the court,” Jones said. “But also in the grand scheme of things it’s November, it’s our first loss so I think there’s a lot left on the table.”

REMATCH

The teams met in December last year in Columbia, South Carolina, with the same rankings. South Carolina rallied from 18 back to win that one. The higher-ranked team has won the last nine matchups in the series.

The Cardinal triumphed in both previous meetings on their home floor.

Stanford beat South Carolina 56-55 in the 2021 national semifinal before edging Arizona 54-53 for the program’s first title since 1992.

In November 2010 – 12 years ago this coming week and early in Staley’s coaching career at South Carolina – she brought VanDerveer to the visiting locker room for a pep talk with the Gamecocks after Stanford’s 70-32 rout.

This time, it was Staley addressing the Stanford team and its supporters who stuck around well after the game.

“If you have an insatiable desire to learn like I do as a student of the game, it’s going to take getting your head knocked off a few times, then you adjust,” Staley said.

SUPPORTING GRINER

A video board message in support of Griner played before tipoff. There was a moment of silence, too, which is standard practice so far this season at Stanford’s home games in support of Griner.

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina: The Gamecocks shot 2 of 7 from long range in the first half and managed only three assists. … South Carolina has been one of the nation’s top rebounding teams, and ranked third on the offensive glass coming in having grabbed 50.5% of its own missed shots. The Gamecocks were outrebounded 22-17 in the first half and 47-41 for the game but secured several second-chance opportunities in crunch time.

Stanford: The Cardinal shot 64.3% (9 of 14) in the opening 10 minutes to lead 21-11. … No team has scored more than 77 points against the Cardinal since the end of the 2019-20 season – a span of 75 games since an 89-56 loss to Oregon in the 2020 Pac-12 tournament title game. … Stanford committed 11 first-half turnovers, and taking care of the ball had been a key focus of VanDerveer’s leading into the game. … Several former Stanford stars were at the game, including the Hull twins, Lacie and Lexie, Alyssa Jerome and former guard Anna Wilson. … Stanford’s home winning streak was the fifth-longest active run in the country.

UP NEXT

South Carolina: At Cal Poly on Tuesday. It’s quite a stretch for a young Cal Poly program, which also played at Stanford on Wednesday.

Stanford: Faces Florida Gulf Coast University on Friday at the Rainbow Wahine Showdown in Honolulu, Hawaii.