KENTUCKY 90, SOUTH CAROLINA 59
Feb. 19, 2011
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.
Darius Miller scored a career-high 22 points and Kentucky rolled over South Carolina, 90-59.
Miller, who made his first six 3-point attempts of the day, finished 6-of-10 from the field and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. He also had nine rebounds, one short of recording his first career double double.
Terrence Jones finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, his fourth double-double in his last six games. Three other UK players finished with double-figure points: Doron Lamb (18), Brandon Knight (12) and DeAndre Liggins (11).
Kentucky, which shot 11-of-20 on 3-pointers, held the Gamecocks to 34.4 percent field goal shooting.
"The biggest thing we did is we guarded. We have to be a defensive first team. That's what we are. Defense first, and rebound, not just defensive rebounding but get free baskets off offensive rebounding. We shot the ball really well but we guarded. We really guarded them pretty good."
"My biggest concern was Kentucky's ability to score. Darius Miller was incredible. When they make shots the way they did they are very, very good." -- South Carolina coach Darrin Horn
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
"I just had open looks. After I hit a couple I was feeling it so I just let it go. It felt pretty good. When you're playing like that you get in the zone and knock down shots." - UK guard Darius Miller, on his career-high six three-pointers
What in the world has gotten into Darius Miller? The junior forward turned in his second consecutive terrific performance, this time dialing up the best offense output of his career and adding an aggressive floor game to boot. Miller poured in a career-high 22 points, making the first six three-pointers he attempted, besting the 20 points he had in last season NCAA Tournament second round game against Wake Forest. Perhaps not coincidentally, Kentucky has won each of those games in complete blowouts, suggesting once again that an effective and assertive Miller does wonders for the overall performance of the entire squad. In addition to his career high in points Miller added nine rebounds and three blocks to his stat line.
It seems entirely impossible the Cats have reached their final two regular season weeks, but that's where things stand with just four games remaining, including three against SEC East rivals. Kentucky would do itself a world of good if it can end the road hex and defeat Arkansas in its next contest, leaving back-to-back home games against Florida and Vanderbilt as enormous showdowns for SEC Tournament seeding purposes. If the Cats make shots like they did against South Carolina and continue to show the maturity they displayed in this victory there is no reason to believe they can't be the dangerous team John Calipari continues to profess them to be.
Brandon Knight's streak of 10 consecutive games with a made three-pointer came to an end but it was hardly a difficult afternoon for the Cats' point guard. The freshman dished out a career-high nine assists, grabbed six rebounds and turned the ball over only one time, running the Cats' offense to near perfection for much of the game. Sure, it wasn't Knight's best shooting performance (he was also just 4-of-8 from the free throw line) but he proved he can be an integral part of UK's success without having to score in bunches.
50 - Kentucky came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and really never looked back, burying South Carolina in a 15-0 hole before the Gamecocks finally made a field goal more than six minutes into the contest. The UK defense also helped push the Cats to their highest scoring first half since dropping 51 points on Winthrop in an 80-52 victory back on Dec. 22. It was just the third time the Cats reached 50 points by halftime, with the season opener against East Tennessee State (50) being the third such game.
Be honest, nobody saw this coming. Kentucky had not shown any indication this season that it could expand a lead, much less blow out a team from opening tip to final buzzer. The question going forward is whether this is a sign that a young UK team has grown up and is ready to break out or if they were just hitting on all cylinders against a last-place team mailing in the remainder of its regular season?
Kentucky fans had been waiting for a game like this for what seemed like an eternity, but finally got to see the Cats take an early lead and then keep extending it rather than lose focus and points off the margin. Is this a breakthrough or just an aberration? The final four games of the regular season will likely determine that answer.
Kentucky (19-7, 7-5 SEC) heads back out on the road for its latest attempt at ending its woes away from Rupp Arena. The Cats face Arkansas at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23 in Bud Walton Arena.
Matt May is the basketball beat reporter for The Cats' Pause. If you have questions or comments about the Cats e-mail him here. You can also follow "@TCPMAY" on Twitter for live updates.