Kentucky 79, South Carolina 66
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)—Patrick Sparks had six second-half 3-pointers and a season-high 26 points to rally Kentucky to a 79-66 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.
Sparks, the Wildcats long-range specialist, had gone just 1 of 6 in a win against Georgia this past Wednesday and missed both shots he took from behind the arc in the first half of this one. But Sparks found his range and the Wildcats (17-9, 7-5 Southeastern Conference) went on to sweep the regular-season series from South Carolina (14-11, 5-7) for the 12th time in the school’s 15 league years.
Sparks first three put Kentucky ahead to stay, 33-30, with 17:53 left. He and his teammates were far from finished, however.
Sparks followed with a bucket—his lone 2-pointer of the half—and another three to put Kentucky up 40-32. A minute later Sparks was at it again, swishing a three to extend the lead to 12 points.
When Sheray Thomas scored to make it 53-39, it finished a 25-9 run where the Wildcats hit 10 of 12 field goals.
The closest South Carolina came after that was 53-45 on two baskets by Tarence Kinsey. Sparks, though, ended any hopes of a comeback with his final two 3-pointers.
South Carolina had entered on a bit of a hot streak with victories in four of its past six games, including a sweep of nationally ranked Florida. The game also was a reunion of about 80 former Gamecock standouts honored at halftime and hopeful this would end differently than so many others against Kentucky.
Instead, Sparks’ outside shooting helped the Wildcats improve to 37-6 all-time against South Carolina. He finished 8 of 11 from the field, 6 of 8 from three-point range and made his four foul shots. Sparks also added four assists and two steals.
Randolph Morris had 13 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight game with double-digit points and rebounds.
Kinsey led South Carolina with 21 points. Just eight of those, however, came in the second half.
South Carolina’s Renaldo Balkman followed a career performance of 28 points and 16 rebounds in an Alabama win this week with only six points and two rebounds against the Wildcats.
Kentucky moved in front quickly, leading 14-6 when Morris—who again did not start for the Wildcats—took control on the inside with several easy baskets.
Then Kentucky went cold and sloppy, going 0-of-4 from the field with three turnovers as South Carolina used a 16-2 run to move in front.
The Wildcats had an awful half from the outside. They missed all eight of their 3-pointers and, minus Morris’ 4-of-4 performance, were only 5 of 17 from the field.