LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It should have been easy. It was relatively easy for the Kentucky basketball team, at least for about the first 30 minutes of the Wildcats’ game at South Carolina in Columbia Wednesday night.
Then it was chaos. Confusion. Disorganization.
Punctuated by the stinging jolt of a banked-in buzzer-beating South Carolina three-point game winner. The Wildcats' run of three straight Southeastern Conference victories was ended by a team that had lost its first two league games.
Make it South Carolina 81, Kentucky 78.
Only a strong performance by the Gamecocks’ security team kept South Carolina fans from storming the court.
It was as complete of a collapse as the Wildcats (12-4) have suffered this season -- and that included the losses to Evansville and Utah.
Ahead by 14 points with 16 1/2 minutes to play, Kentucky lost to a seven-loss South Carolina team that had lost its last three, including a home game to Stetson.
Ashton Hagans fouled out. Tyrese Maxey appeared to bruise his leg. And Kentucky fell apart -- on a night when the Wildcats played solid basketball for the first 23 minutes.
Behind 77-74, the Wildcats had an opportunity to tie the game with 35 seconds to play. But Immanuel Quickley missed his second three-point shot of the night. Keion Brooks missed a tip and a short jumper.
South Carolina made a free throw to push its lead to four. A pair of free throws by Quickley cut the deficit to 78-76 with 19.7 seconds to play.
Two missed South Carolina free throws gave Kentucky another opportunity. This time, the Wildcats converted. Quickley drove the right side of the lane, stopped and converted a difficult, contested 12-foot step-back jumper.
Not this time. South Caroline quickly inbounded the ball to Jermaine Couisnard, a freshman guard, with 4.1 seconds to play. With Quickley in front of him, Cousinard changed directions, going left, then right beforee moving into an opening near the top of the key.
With Quickley and Nick Richards leaping at him, Couisnard launched an unlikely three-point prayer. This is a player who was a 29.5 percent three-points shooter (13 of 44) before Wednesday night.
The ball slammed off the backboard and into the goal.
The upset was confirmed.
How did this happen?
The Wildcats stopped defending. The Gamecocks made 24.3 percent of their shots in the first half, better than 55 percent in the second. South Carolina made two threes in the first half and five in the second.
They stopped making free throws. Before Wednesday, UK ranked 13th nationally in free throw percentage, making nearly 78 percent. They missed 10 of 35 against South Carolina.
They stopped working the basketball and getting smart shots. The Wildcats had only four assists In the second half.
But mostly they stopped defending. South Carolina missed its first 10 field goal attempts. The Gamecocks labored to score 25 points in the first half.
Somehow, South Carolina surged to 56 points in the second half.
Quickley led Kentucky with 20 points. Richards had 15. Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey both scored 13.
There is not much time for Kentucky to regroup. The Wildcats visit Arkansas on Saturday. The Razorbacks are likely the fourth-best team in the SEC, winners of their first 10 home games.
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