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Date story published: Wednesday, January 6, 1999

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina Coach Eddie Fogler sang the praises of Kentucky forward Scott Padgett before last night's game. All-Southeastern Conference. "Best passing big man in the United States."

Nothing in the game contradicted Fogler as Padgett scored 19 points and led UK to a 68-61 victory.

Fogler noted that the many contributions Padgett makes cannot be found in a box score. No doubt, Padgett had those. But he also gave the Cats plenty of tangibles.

Padgett's all-around play fueled a dominating first half for Kentucky. When South Carolina mounted a surprising second-half rally, Padgett hit clutch shots that prevented a shocking upset.

No. 6 UK improved to 13-3 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. South Carolina, which has only one victory since Dec. 4, fell to 5-8 overall and 0-2 in the league.

Kentucky demonstrated its superiority immediately and dominated the entire first half.

It all fit the expected form. UK's big lineup ruled the inside against the smaller Gamecocks. And South Carolina continued to struggle to put points on the scoreboard.

UK limited South Carolina to six baskets (on 26 shots). For the ninth time in 13 games, the Gamecocks failed to score as many as 30 points in a first half.

UK led 39-20 at halftime. And it could have been worse had the Cats not devoted a four-minute chunk to experimenting with its quick lineup of three freshmen (Jules Camara, Tayshaun Prince and Desmond Allison), plus two sophomores (Ryan Hogan and Saul Smith).

Kentucky scored the game's first 12 points, 10 of which came off shots within 2 feet of the hoop.

Meanwhile, South Carolina did not score until BJ McKie hit a three-pointer with 13:49 left in the half. The Gamecocks missed their first five shots and committed four turnovers to that point.

McKie, South Carolina's only player averaging double-figure points, did not start a rush of points. The Gamecocks made only one of their first 12 shots, just four of their first 20.

With Padgett flashing his versatility seemingly to the max, UK came out fast. In the first 11 minutes, he posted up for a semi-hook and a reverse layup, hit a three-pointer, fed a quick pass that produced a fast-break layup for Mike Bradley, stole a feed into the post and, perhaps most stunningly, rose for a dunk off a lob pass from Bradley.

UK, which made 34 of 66 three-point shots in three games against South Carolina last season, did not need the long-range shot this time. The Cats made only three of eight three-point shots.

posting up against Carolina reserve Hagen Rouse? Or when Padgett used a 4-inch height advantage to post Antonio Grant.

UK's starting twin towers, Jamaal Magloire and Bradley, outscored Carolina's starting center and power forward 14-2.

The laugher turned serious early in the second half. South Carolina made six of its first nine shots. Guards Aaron Lucas and McKie scored all but two points in a 17-6 run that reduced UK's lead to 45-37.

That prompted a Kentucky 20-second timeout with 15:26 left. The stoppage of play did not halt South Carolina's surprising momentum. Padgett cut to the basket and got his shot and himself knocked to the floor.

The Gamecocks twice got within seven of Kentucky with more than 12 minutes left.

The first time, Camara eased the situation by tipping in Turner's pull-up shot. The second time Padgett hit a three-pointer. Padgett's shot started a string of seven straight Padgett points that pointed UK toward victory.

Tubby is tops

Smith improved his record for Kentucky to 48-7. That made him the winningest UK coach after the first 55 games.

Adolph Rupp had a 47-8 record after 55 games. Joe B. Hall was 34-21, Eddie Sutton 45-10 and Rick Pitino 35-20.

Getting their rest

The UK camp, which expressed concern about how taxing its pre-conference schedule had been, caught a break.

Because the game came during the semester break, UK did not have to rush back from a 9:30 p.m. start. The Cats were not scheduled to leave Columbia until this morning.