COLUMBIA, S.C. — Once Kentucky began clicking, "scary" good basketball would ensue, Coach John Calipari said more than once this season. That prediction seemed to come true in an 86-52 victory at South Carolina Saturday.
Kentucky got credit for 17 assists and committed only three turnovers, the latter the fewest in Calipari's three seasons as coach. It was the fewest turnovers by a UK team since the Cats turned over the ball once in a 2004 Southeastern Conference Tournament finals victory over Florida. It was also the fewest by a league team this season.
Although Kentucky made 59.2 percent of its shots in whipping South Carolina a month ago in Rupp Arena, Gamecocks' Coach Darrin Horn suggested that a vastly improved UK romped in the rematch.
"Just basketball," he said. "I know that sounds very simple. ... They're executing better. They're just a better basketball team."
It was the most lopsided loss of Horn's head coaching career. His previous worst for South Carolina was a 90-59 loss at UK last season. When Western Kentucky coach, his team in 2006-07 lost 101-68 to then No. 1 Florida.
Calipari acknowledged Kentucky's improvement while noting the room for growth that comes with a freshman-oriented team.
"We're getting better," he said. "... We're young. So everything's new to this group."
Defensively, UK limited South Carolina to 30.5-percent shooting accuracy. That marked the fourth-worst accuracy by a UK opponent this season, and came four days after Tennessee posted the third-worst (28.1 percent). Only Radford (26.2 percent) and Penn State (26.9 percent) shot worse.
"It's hard when you're up a bunch to come out and compete," Calipari said of the Cats' relentlessness. "I was proud of them. ...
"South Carolina hit us on a bad day."
Calipari said one of his aims is to get freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to smile.
"I want him to have a ball," the UK coach said.
Kidd-Gilchrist made two of seven shots, making him seven of 21 in the last three. He missed his only three-point attempt, making him one for 11 from beyond the arc in SEC play. Then again, he's best on the drive, not as a jump shooter.
Perhaps an apparent observation by an ESPN announcer could make Kidd-Gilchrist smile. Calipari was asked about the suggestion that the freshman's solid play warranted a name change to "Man-Gilchrist."
To which, the UK coach said, "They were running out of things to say."
Anthony Davis acknowledged that his father wanted him to post a triple-double, which he flirted with (22 points, eight rebounds, eight blocks).
"I think he might give me a break because we're winning by so much," Davis said with a smile. "I didn't know I was that close. People on the bench said I needed two more blocks.
"Unfortunately, I didn't get it. There's always another game."
Bruce Ellington continued his history of poor shooting against UK. He made only one of nine (one of five from three-point range). That made him eight of 44 (four of 27 from beyond the arc) in four career games against the Cats.
"Our whole team struggled," South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn said. "I don't think I'd single out Bruce."
Malik Cooke, the Gamecocks' only other player with a double-digit scoring average, made two of nine shots. That made him 14 of 36 the last two seasons against UK.
South Carolina became the third UK opponent in the last four Saturdays to have played a game less than 48 hours earlier.
"We're not going to make any excuses with that," Horn said.
Added freshman Damien Leonard, who led the Gamecocks with 19 points, "Nah. I didn't see anything that changed. We were sleeping (after arriving home from Florida at 2 a.m. Friday). We woke up and got ready for (Kentucky)."
'Three' alarm from Calipari
Kentucky will seek its first 10-0 start in the league since 2005 when it plays Florida Tuesday. Calipari noted Florida's three-point shooting prowess, and said the Gators would take 30 or more against UK.
"If they make 20," (the Cats will lose)," Calipari said. "What's the next game?"
No UK opponent has made 20 three-pointers in Calipari's three seasons as coach. The most treys by a UK opponent was the 18 made by Sam Houston State on Nov. 19, 2009.
Only eight UK opponents have made 10 or more three-pointers in that span. The Cats have a 6-2 record in those games.
South Carolina announced an attendance of 16,527. That marked the Gamecocks' largest crowd of the season, topping the 13,654 that saw USC play Ohio State. But it failed to fill the Colonial Life Center, which has a listed capacity of 18,000.