Gritty Gamecocks take on Wildcats in SEC semifinals
(Sports Network) – The South Carolina Gamecocks and Kentucky Wildcats are
set to do battle in the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament, and the winner
will move on to face either Florida or LSU for the championship. South
Carolina recorded a thrilling 79-71 upset of a clearly favored
Tennessee squad in the quarterfinal round. The Gamecocks, who cruised by
Mississippi State on the first day of the tournament, are the only current
member of the SEC that has not won this event. They are the East
Division’s fifth seed but have overshadowed their 6-10 conference finish
with their strong play the last two days.
As for Kentucky, it is coming off a hard-fought 68-61 triumph over
Alabama yesterday. The Wildcats overcame a slow start to beat Ole Miss by
double figures on Thursday, and they are looking to add to an already stellar
SEC Tournament resume. Kentucky has won this event 25 times, more than all
other members of the league combined, and it has reached the finals in each of
the last three seasons. The Wildcats won both meetings with the Gamecocks
during the regular season, and Kentucky owns a commanding 37-6 lead in the
all-time series between the programs.
South Carolina knows that it needs to win the SEC Tournament to earn a spot in
the upcoming NCAA Tournament, and the team certainly took a big step toward
accomplishing that feat with the eight-point victory over Tennessee yesterday.
Tre’ Kelley was simply outstanding for the Gamecocks, as he posted 25 points
to lead the squad. Renaldo Balkman pitched in 16 points for the Gamecocks, who
shot 70 percent from the floor in the second half. Tarence Kinsey added
balance to the lineup with 14 points, helping his squad avenge a pair of
regular season losses to Tennessee. The game was won on the interior, as South
Carolina earned a commanding 40-22 advantage in points in the paint. Balkman
tallied 12 points in the victory over Mississippi State in the opening round,
while Kelley and Kinsey managed 11 points apiece.
Kentucky trailed Alabama by as many as 11 points in the second half of
yesterday’s game, but a 21-3 run to close out the contest enabled the Wildcats
to emerge victorious. Four of the five starters scored in double figures for
Kentucky, and Joe Crawford led the way with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from
three-point range. Bobby Perry and Patrick Sparks tallied 13 points apiece,
and Randolph Morris added 11 points. The Wildcats connected on only 39.7
percent of their field goal attempts in the clash, but they managed to limit
Alabama to 36.7 percent efficiency. Also, they committed six fewer turnovers
than the Tide. Morris posted 17 points in the victory over Ole Miss on
Thursday, and Sparks came through with 14 points.