LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Rajon Rondo hit a 3-pointer with
one-second left -- his second buzzer-beating game-winner in three
weeks, as Kentucky defeated South Carolina 80-78 Saturday to snap a
two-game home losing streak.
After his fade-away jumper with a second left defeated Central
Florida Jan. 3, the sophomore guard claimed he had never done that
before in his career -- including high school. He can't claim that
With the victory, Kentucky (12-6, 2-2 Southeastern Conference)
avoided losing its first three conference home games for the first
time ever. That brush with unwanted history came in the presence of
one of the most heralded Kentucky teams of all time.
Members of "Rupp's Runts," Kentucky's 1965-66 team that was
national runner-up, were on hand for the game. Four of the starting
five attended, but current Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, who had
planned to join them, had a conflict and couldn't make it.
The team, coached by the late Hall of Famer Adolph Rupp, plays
the role of villain in the new film "Glory Road," which is about
that season's champions, Texas Western, which was the first to
start an all-black lineup in the title game.
Not since the 1966-67 season, the year after the Runts, had
Kentucky lost three straight home games.
Antoine Tisby's two free-throws gave South Carolina (10-8, 1-4)
a 78-77 lead with 10 seconds left. Tisby went to the line amid
vocal protests from Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and the Rupp Arena
crowd, who argued Tisby traveled.
Instead, the foul was called on center Randolph Morris -- his
fifth, which ousted him from the game.
Kentucky had pulled ahead on a 3-pointer by Patrick Sparks, one of his four on the day. Sparks, a senior guard, had 14 points, his highest total since scoring 25 on Nov. 22 against West Virginia.
South Carolina went on a 15-0 run early in the second half to lead 58-46, but the Wildcats rediscovered their touch and scored 20 of the next 24 points.
The Kentucky run came largely without Morris, who picked up his
fourth foul with 11:30 left and was held out of most of the rest of
For the first time in several games, Kentucky shot well out of the gate, but so did South Carolina. The teams combined for eight
3-pointers in the first eight minutes and 12 in the half, including
three each by Kentucky's Sparks and Carolina's Dwayne Day, who had
18 points and tied a career-high with four total 3-pointers.
Kentucky made 56 percent of its shots from the field in the
game, and South Carolina hit 52 percent. The Gamecocks won the
rebounding battle, 31-25.
It was a seesaw battle most of the half, and the longest run was
South Carolina's six consecutive points in the final two minutes.
Sparks immediately answered that with a 3-pointer to give Kentucky
a 40-38 lead at halftime.
Although the Wildcats shot well, the mental lapses that plagued
them in recent losses to Kansas, Vanderbilt and Alabama dogged them
again on occasion. In consecutive possessions in the first half,
the team was called for over and back, then Rondo threw the ball
out of bounds when Sparks was looking the other way.
Ahead of Tuesday's victory at Georgia, coach Tubby Smith
enlisted an assistant professor in sports leadership to try to help
pull the team out of its slump.
- Mike Stuart
- Rick Crawford
- Carlos Reyes