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South Carolina seeking answers after Kentucky loss

By Pete Iacobelli

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 7:55 p.m. MST

Kentucky's Darius Miller (1) shoots over South Carolina's R.J. Slawson (33) during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, in Columbia, S.C. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 86-52.

Mary Ann Chastain, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Darrin Horn knew the Gamecocks had work to do.

He found out just how much after his team's 86-52 loss to No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday night.

The Gamecocks (9-13) fell to 1-7 in the Southeastern Conference, their worst start to league play since 2003. The team looked as if it was turning a corner last week with a win over Alabama and a close loss at Ole Miss. Then came this: total domination by a Kentucky team that's nearly as young as the Gamecocks.

Horn only knows one solution: Keep working.

"We have to move forward and prepare for two road games this week and stay focused on the things that we have been doing very well and given us our wins," Horn said.

There wasn't much of that against Kentucky. Freshman Damien Leonard led the Gamecocks with a career-best 19 points. But Malik Cooke and Bruce Ellington, the team's top two scorers, were 3 of 18 from the field for eight points, well off their combined total of 24 points a game coming in.

Horn said no one on the team played that well, largely because of Kentucky.

"I don't think they get near enough credit for the defense they play," Horn said.

Kentucky held South Carolina to 24 percent shooting and had 10 blocks, eight by freshman star Anthony Davis.

"It was pretty pretty hard to get in a rhythm," Cooke said. "It was hard for us to get going."

Davis had 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the Wildcats.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said for the second straight day that Horn needed more time to turn things around with the Gamecocks. South Carolina's schedule could offer some support.

The team has finished season series with Kentucky and Florida and has several more favorable league matchups the rest of the way.

"The challenge of the first eight (SEC games) we have had, it has been well documented" how difficult it was, Horn said.

Doron Lamb had 18 points, Terrence Jones 16 and the Wildcats (23-1) shot 51.6 percent as the Wildcats won their 15th straight game and moved to 9-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in seven years in what Calipari called his team's best performance this season.

"It didn't matter who we played, somebody was losing by 30," Calipari said.

Davis, the 6-foot-10 freshman, was a big reason why. He finished several alley-oops in the first half as Kentucky opened 52-25 lead and was there to swat away several shots by the Gamecocks, who made only nine field goals in the opening period.

Davis said the Wildcats got a fast boost by Kentucky's fans, who made up at least half the 16,527 who turned out at the Colonial Life Arena.

"I'm not used to this," Davis said. "I thought, 'It feels like a home game in here.'"

If Kentucky keeps playing like this, expect the team's fans to turn out on the road even more than they already do.

Davis made his first nine shots, finishing 9 of 10, and added two steals.

Davis, who sat for long stretches of the second half, got back in the game with about 6 minutes to go and looked as though he might have a chance at the program's second-ever triple-double. But when he took a hard spill on a collision with Anthony Gill, Calipari took his prized freshman out for good to the applause of several thousand Wildcats fans.

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