Wilson helps No. 2 South Carolina beat No. 9 Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) No. 2 South Carolina had to fight to remain undefeated.
A'Ja Wilson had 26 points, 13 rebounds and a season-high eight blocks and the Gamecocks rallied to beat No. 9 Kentucky 73-62 on Thursday night.
South Carolina (16-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) scored a season-low 28 points in the first half, then outscored Kentucky 45-30 in the final two quarters. They pulled away with an 18-8 run.
Tiffany Mitchell added 16 points, and Tina Roy had 12 for the Gamecocks, but it was Wilson who carried the load, especially in the second half. Wilson finished two points shy of matching her career scoring high.
''My teammates saw what the defense was giving me and I saw what it was giving me,'' Wilson said. ''That's just the system.''
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said Wilson's performance was ''pretty special.''
''A lot of times you see close to triple doubles in blowouts but when you get it in a game of this magnitude it just shows how special A'ja Wilson is,'' Staley said. ''She did a magnificent job making adjustments from first half to second half.''
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said Wilson's presence in the post wore his team down, leading to foul trouble in the post, limiting his team's options in the paint down the stretch.
''South Carolina played real tough in the second half,'' Mitchell said. ''We just had a hard time with A'ja Wilson. She was really tough. I thought foul trouble really bothered us. They were able to play their starting frontcourt and we weren't. That affected our ability to guard them.''
Janee Thompson and Makayla Epps had 16 points each for the Wildcats (13-2, 2-2). They lost for the first time at home this season.
Kentucky led 11-3 and held the Gamecocks to a season-low eight points in the first quarter.
South Carolina rallied from a 30-19 deficit and used an 11-2 run to close the gap to 32-28 at the break. Wilson scored six points during the spurt and had 11 points in the first half.
South Carolina took its first lead at 49-48 on Mitchell's 3-pointer with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
South Carolina beat its first three conference opponents by an average of 29 points and became the first team to score more than 67 points against the Wildcats this season. South Carolina did most of its scoring with 38 points in the post.
''We knew from playing in the first half we didn't do a great job getting our post players touches in the paint,'' Staley said. ''They had to do a better job posting up. We made the adjustment to make entry passes easier.''
Kentucky had won 10 of the last 12 games played at home between the two conference foes, but failed to win for a second straight time over the Gamecocks at home.
''This was huge win,'' Mitchell said. ''Our second time winning here in eight years. This was a big win for us and our program.''
For the first time in six games, Kentucky center Evelyn Okhator failed to score double figures. Okhator, who had a double-double in Kentucky's first three conference games, was held to six points.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are six wins way from tying a school for most consecutive victories (22) in a season. ... South Carolina, Connecticut (14-0) and Texas (15-0) are the only remaining undefeated teams in the nation.
Kentucky: The Wildcats suffered their first loss to a ranked opponent this season and are 2-1 against Top 25 teams. ... Morris has made a 3-pointer in three straight games.
South Carolina: Hosts No. 15 Texas A&M on Sunday.
Kentucky: Hosts Auburn on Sunday.