Starting play Thursday night, six SEC teams were ranked in the Top 25. Two of those other ranked SEC teams - #9 Kentucky and #10 South Carolina faced each other on Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks were coming off two straight SEC wins, a four point win at Arkansas, which was only the Razorbacks second loss of the season and a ten point home win over Vanderbilt, which was only the third loss on the season for the Commodores.
This was my second South Carolina Women's Basketball game of the season, having seen Dawn Staley's team defeat Seton Hall with a strong second half in their game from earlier in the season. Thursday night was what I thought was going to be a solo night for me. My color analyst, aka my older son Matthew, had taken a nap when he got home for school. Thus he had not done his homework yet, which is my requirement for him joining me for weeknight basketball games. So I purchased a ticket at the arena, got dinner -cheesesteak, fries and water (hey, had to have something healthy) and sat in a seat as close as I could to the court.
Going into Thursday night's contest, the Wildcats were the highest scoring team in the SEC, averaging 92 points per game. And early on, Kentucky was living up to its scoring average, as they jumped out to a 10-4 lead on the Gamecocks. South Carolina was struggling from the field at the onset missing on four of five field goal attempts and committing four turnovers in the first four minutes.
At halftime, Cocky led a large group of kids in a round of "The Chicken Dance". It looked like the kids were swarming Cocky, much like the Gamecocks did to the Wildcats over the last fifteen minutes of the first half. The start of the second wouldn't get any better for Kentucky.
The result was a 20-8 run by the Gamecocks over the first eleven and a half minutes as they took a commanding 54-32 lead. . During the run, Welch scored seven points while Ibiam contributed five points. When the Gamecocks went up twenty two, while there was only an announced crowd of about 5700 for the game, it was by far the loudest crowd I had heard all season, either for women's or men's games.
But Kentucky would get no closer as Tiffany Mitchell would hit two free throws and off a Wildcats turnover, Olivia Gaines would score on a layup to put the Gamecocks up 63-51. Kentucky would get it back down to eight, but another Coates layup and two more Mitchell free throws put the lead again back up to twelve. The Gamecocks would eventually win 68-59.
Kentucky also had four players in double figures as Asia Bishop led the Wildcats with a double double, twelve points and eleven rebounds. Samarie Walker and Janee Thompson each had twelve points and DeNesha Stallworth added eleven points.
With the win, South Carolina moved to 3-0 in conference tied with unranked Florida for first place. Meanwhile, Kentucky falls to 1-2. Things will not get any easier for either team in conference. #25 Georgia, which entered SEC play with only one loss, lost its third straight game to start the conference season at unranked Missouri. There are no easy games in the SEC, especially with eleven teams with twelve or more wins.