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Daniels keys Wildcats' vital spurts

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Erik Daniels was the unlikeliest Kentucky
player to hoist a 3-pointer with time running down in the first
half. But he showed no hesitation and broke South Carolina's spirit
with his sudden long-range accuracy.

"You're not going to see me take that shot that often,'' said
Daniels, a junior forward who matched his career high with 19
points as the Wildcats (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) earned a 62-55 victory Saturday night.
"But the play broke down and I was open so I took it. It felt good
as soon as it left my hands.''

Daniels' second 3-pointer of the season capped a 25-6 spurt as
the Wildcats overcame a ragged start to pull away for their fifth
straight win since a demoralizing 81-63 loss at archrival
Louisville.

The shot from well beyond the top of the key may not have
surprised Daniels but shocked South Carolina coach Dave Odom, whose
team continued its own shooting woes.

"Daniels was the difference in the game,'' Odom said. "The
scouting report says he's not going to hit that 3 against us -- he
did. He hit that 3 and kind of stuck the dagger in our hearts.

"He was much more effective in and around the basket. He
finished 9-for-12 (from the field). That's pretty efficient, I'd
say.''

Daniels, a first-year starter, had his regular workmanlike
performance for Kentucky, adding a team-high six rebounds plus an
assist and a blocked shot in 34 minutes.

"His basketball IQ and ability to move without the ball is very
good,'' Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "He understands angles
and how to position himself to get open.

"What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in his attitude
and his knowledge of the game.''

With the scored tied at 15, Kentucky (11-3, 2-0 Southeastern
Conference) outscored South Carolina 17-4 over the final seven
minutes of a sloppy half in which each team committed 13 turnovers.

"We got more active late in the first half,'' Kentucky point
guard Cliff Hawkins said. "Guys started moving around and being
more aggressive on defense. But we had a lot of careless turnovers
and that's something we're going to have to work on.''

Daniels added two layups during the decisive Kentucky outburst
and Marquis Estill had six points as the Wildcats repeatedly
penetrated South Carolina's defense for easy baskets.

The Wildcats started the second half with a 12-4 run. Daniels
converted two layups and Keith Bogans hit a 3-pointer to make it
44-23 with 14:17 left.

South Carolina (7-5, 1-1) cut the deficit to nine on Kerbrell
Brown's 3-pointer from the corner that made it 56-47 with 3:17
left. Brown scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half,
including 10 straight late in the game.

Estill finished with 12 points and Bogans, who sat out much of
the first half, had 10. Estill had four assists to lead Kentucky
with crisp interior passing.

Carlos Powell had 17 points for South Carolina and Chuck Eidson
added 11. South Carolina center Rolando Howell, who sat out the
second half Wednesday night against Mississippi after being kicked
in the head, did not start but had four points and eight rebounds
against Kentucky.

The Gamecocks' shooting struggles continued for a second
straight game as they went 23-of-60 (38.3 percent), including
6-of-28 from 3-point range. On Wednesday, South Carolina shot 27.8
percent in the first half.

"We were too passive on offense,'' Powell said. "We were
settling for passing the ball around the perimeter instead of
penetrating their defense.''

Kentucky was 22-of-45 from the field and 15-of-19 from the free
throw line. South Carolina shot just four three throws and hit
three.

The Gamecocks took an 11-7 lead on a field goal by Eidson as
Smith pulled his starting lineup in the first six minutes.

Kentucky finished with a season-high 22 turnovers and the
Gamecocks had 19.