In arguably one of their biggest games of the season, the South Carolina men's basketball team made a statement Wednesday night.
With first place in the SEC East on the line, the Gamecocks throttled division rival Kentucky 77-59 in front of a near-sellout home crowd. Devan Downey had 21 points and five steals, but the bigger story was the complete domination of Carolina's big men against the Wildcat shooters.
South Carolina set a school record with 16 blocks in the game, as Kentucky struggled to get easy baskets inside. Sam Muldrow had a career high with seven blocks and Dominique Archie added four more. Muldrow had been challenged earlier in the week by Coach Darrin Horn to step his game up, and it paid off immensely.
"I challenged Sam [Tuesday] in the film room," said Horn. "I don't know if I've ever had a player respond as well as he did tonight."
Muldrow, along with fellow USC big men Archie and Mike Holmes, kept Kentucky's dangerous shooters in check the entire night. Kentucky's player-of-the-year candidate Jodie Meeks finished with only 18 points and spent several minutes on the bench in the second half. Wildcats forward Patrick Patterson scored a game-high 28 but was also blocked seven times and frustrated throughout the night by Carolina's stingy defense.
Kentucky trailed by 18 at the half and it was never that close again. At one point Carolina stretched the lead to 28. The announced crowd of over 16,000 was on their feet until the final minutes, cheering as the Gamecocks completed acrobatic slam dunks and alley oops."The crowd was absolutely unbelievable," said Horn. "That building was as loud as I've ever heard and I've been in a lot of nice venues in my time."
With the win Carolina moves into sole possession of first place in the division with four games remaining. They return to action Saturday night when they take on Vanderbilt in Nashville.