COLUMBUS, S.C. — Kentucky let a double digit lead slip away and overcame a six-point deficit in the final minute before South Carolina's Jermaine Couisnard banked in a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to hand the Wildcats their first SEC loss of the season, 81-78.
SOUTH CAROLINA BEATS KENTUCKY AT THE BUZZER 🚨 pic.twitter.com/pqlWPIKO7w— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 16, 2020
Kentucky (12-4, 3-1 SEC), who entered the game ranked No. 10 in the latest AP poll, led by as many as 14 points early in the second half before the Gamecocks rallied late for the 3-point victory. South Carolina improved to 9-7 (1-2 SEC) with the win.
Emmanuel Quickley led the Wildcats with 20 points in the loss. Nick Richards (15 points, 7 rebounds), Ashton Hagans (13 points, 7 assists) and Tyrese Maxey (13 points) also broke double figures.
Couisnard led the Gamecocks with a game-high 26 points.
The Wildcats led 33-25 halftime before a pair of Quickley jumpers and a Maxey free throw gave Kentucky a 38-28 lead at the 18:02 mark of the second half.
Slowly but surely, South Carolina began chipping away at their deficit.
The Gamecocks crept within one point, 62-61, off a dunk from Keyshawn Bryant, with 6:08 to play. Quickley silenced the home crowd with a 3-pointer on the Wildcats' ensuing possession. Bryant responded with an old-fashioned 3-point play to cut the deficit back to one point before Quickely drilled another 3-pointer to give Kentucky a 68-64 lead with 5:08 to play.
The Gamecocks responded with an 11-2 run, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Justin Minaya, to take a 75-70 lead with just 2:25 to play.
The Gameocks stretched their lead to six points, 77-71, before Quickley converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to cut the deficit in half with 53 seconds to play. After Couisnard hit one of two free throws on the other end, Quickley drew a foul and hit both free throws to make it a two-point game with 19 seconds to play.
After being forced to foul, the Wildcats caught a break when A.J. Lawson missed both free throws to give Kentucky a chance to tie with 16 seconds to play. After Calipari called timeout, Quickley drilled a step back jumper to tie the game with five seconds to play.
The game appeared to be heading to overtime. However, Couisnard had other plans, as he took the ensuing in bounds pass and threw up a prayer which was answered as time ran out.
Kentucky travels to Arkansas on Saturday (13-2, 2-1 SEC). Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be streamed on ESPN.
Kentucky's loss and Auburn's loss to Alabama leaves LSU as the only team that is undefeated team in SEC play.