COLUMBIA, S.C. — Every shot, every cut, every pass.
Every minute of the game, South Carolina wanted to make Kentucky as uncomfortable as possible.
The No. 18 Gamecocks succeeded and upended the fifth-ranked Cats 55-50 Thursday night, ending UK's 17-game win streak.
"They played much harder than we did," Cats Coach Matthew Mitchell explained. "They played much more physical. Their desire was much stronger to win tonight. When that happens, then we get beat."
Kentucky, one of the nation's best offenses averaging nearly 80 points, managed just 50 points, its second-lowest output of the season behind 32.8 percent shooting.
On three separate occasions, UK (18-2, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) went more than six minutes without a basket. At one point in the first half, the Cats went nearly nine minutes without a point.
As Kentucky surged ahead 40-34 early in the second half, the Gamecocks went on a decisive 17-4 run to throw UK off balance. The Cats went six minutes without a field goal in that span.
"At times, you could kind of see it on their faces when they weren't executing properly or getting the ball to the people they wanted to, they were getting kind of frustrated," said Gamecocks guard Ieasia Walker, who had 16 points and eight rebounds in the win.
"We wanted to match their energy. ... We wanted to dish it back at them, be just as aggressive attacking the rim."
South Carolina (17-3, 5-2) was aggressive and Kentucky didn't respond.
"For whatever reason, they weren't into answering that physical challenge that South Carolina posed tonight," Mitchell said. "We'll try to figure that out. ... We just didn't seem to ever adjust to South Carolina's physical play."
Jennifer O'Neill was the Cats' only offense early in the game. The point guard finished with 17 points. DeNesha Stallworth, who spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior star A'dia Mathies made just one of her first nine shots, but hit some big baskets late to cut into the South Carolina lead.
But a couple of big turnovers at the end kept the game out of reach, and the Gamecocks, who average just 54.2 percent at the free-throw line, made just enough of those to win out.
"We didn't have poise and we didn't finish out the game well," O'Neill said.
"They were just up in our face, aggressive the whole game, and we just didn't keep our poise," she said.
South Carolina did everything it could to keep UK from maintaining any kind of poise.
"One of the keys was you have to hit first because we knew we were going to get hit," Coach Dawn Staley said. "It's always these knock- down, drag-out games with Kentucky."
That was an apt description Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena, where the teams each managed to score just 19 points in the first half.
The game had no rhythm, no flow.
That's just how South Carolina wanted it.
The word 'ugly' is too short and plain to describe the first half, which at times looked more like a wrestling match than a basketball game.
Kentucky jumped out to a 10-3 lead, missing all but one of its first seven shots, and South Carolina struggled to score even more.
The Gamecocks missed their first 11 shots and made just two of their first 15 attempts.
Four minutes in, Stallworth took a seat on the UK bench with her second foul and the Gamecocks took advantage, scoring nine unanswered to grab a 15-12 lead.
A five-point flurry for O'Neill at the end of the first half helped keep Kentucky in it and tie the game at 19-19 at the break.
The Cats' 19 points weren't their fewest in the first half this season, that came against Louisville (18 points) on Dec. 2.
All three of South Carolina's losses this season had come against ranked opponents. The Gamecocks and their coach said they wanted to see that streak end along with Kentucky's on Thursday night.
"It's huge," Staley said of the win. "I'm happy for our players. ... We kept coming up short against opponents like Kentucky, like the Stanfords, like Tennessee. I'm happy to see their hard work and what they put into it really paid off."
LSU at Kentucky
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. (Fox Sports South)
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com