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Turnovers, missed layups doom No. 2 South Carolina women in 67-56 loss to No. 13 Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Kentucky — More frustrating to South Carolina coach Dawn Staley than the 20 turnovers committed by the No. 2 Gamecocks were the countless missed layups that could've rallied them past No. 13 Kentucky.

The Gamecocks now must put Sunday's 67-56 loss behind them and look toward the Southeastern Conference tournament as the No. 1 seed. Their aim is to be more in sync than they were against Kentucky, which denied South Carolina an unbeaten regular season in conference play.

"We wake up tomorrow and we try to get back at it," Staley said. "We have a lot left in the season and you do need to reflect on winning 27 out of 29 games."

Forgetting about this one is a good first step.

The Gamecocks (27-2, 15-1) began both halves shooting 1 of 11 from the field and finished 20 of 62 for a season-low 32 percent. They also finished even with the Wildcats in rebounding (45-45) and scoring in the paint (24-24), with the latter number saying the most about their struggles near the basket.

South Carolina also made just 10 of 20 free throws, while its giveaways turned into 19 Kentucky points. Some of those missed chances occurred after the Gamecocks came back from a 21-point deficit to get to 53-46 and seemed to gain momentum.

"We always give ourselves a chance to win," Staley said. "We just have to make shots. We got ourselves back into the game and then we felt trapped by missing point-blank-range layups with no defense around. We were fighting to get back in and missing those types of layups, it deflates you."

A'ja Wilson had 16 points, 19 rebounds and six blocks for South Carolina. Tina Roy added 10 points with three 3-pointers, including back-to-back shots from long range that helped the comeback attempt.

Tiffany Mitchell had eight points and four rebounds but fouled out.

Jennifer O'Neill and Makayla Epps combined for 22 second-half points for Kentucky (21-8, 10-6), which offset 32 percent shooting by converting 27 of 35 free throws, including 19 of 23 in the second half and 10 of 11 down the stretch.

Epps scored 14 points, including 8-of-11 shooting from the line. O'Neill went 7 of 8 and had 15 points, capping a strong effort by Kentucky's seniors in their home finale.

The Wildcats avoided a season sweep and ended a three-game slide against the Gamecocks, who sought their second straight win in Lexington.

Instead, Kentucky made easy baskets hard to come by for South Carolina.

"Our kids are so undersized compared to South Carolina," Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell said. "They just have an unbelievably talented team, so we had to disrupt their ball handlers so they don't have time to throw the ball in because their post players are open a lot. But if you can't see them you can't throw it in there. ... That was sort of our philosophy today."


SENIOR SEND-OFF

Before the game, Kentucky honored Bria Goss (six points), O'Neill, Azia Bishop (11 points, nine rebounds) and Jelleah Sydney (one point) as the program's second-winningest senior class. The group is 105-27 with an SEC regular-season title, three NCAA tournament berths and two regional final appearances.

TIP-INS

South Carolina: The Gamecocks had 12 blocks and their bench outscored Kentucky 39-20.

Kentucky: Kyvin Goodin-Rogers had nine points and Linnae Harper seven.

UP NEXT

South Carolina plays the Arkansas-Mississippi winner on Friday in the SEC tournament.

Kentucky faces Vanderbilt or Alabama on Thursday in the SEC tournament.

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