The Daily Gamecock

Gamecock men's basketball upsets No. 6 Kentucky in 1st ranked win of season

The South Carolina Gamecocks delivered a decisive upset over the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats at a sold-out Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 23, 2024. The Gamecocks' defense played a large role in the 79-62 victory over the Wildcats. Fans across the arena stormed the court following the game, with players encouraging them to run onto the court. South Carolina is now 4-2 in conference play.

South Carolina men's basketball hurdled over No. 6 Kentucky 79-62 Tuesday, propelled by graduate student guard Ta'Lon Cooper and junior guard Jacobi Wright. 

The win marked the team's first time beating a ranked opponent for the 2023-24 season. Additionally, the Gamecocks held the highest-scoring team in the nation, averaging 91.6 points a game, to just 62 points. 


"They have a lot of belief," head coach Lamont Paris said. "They have a lot of belief in themselves and what we do, and they're a confident group."

It was a close battle early on, with Wright scoring 9 points on three 3-pointers to lead South Carolina’s offense. Kentucky had a run in the middle of the first half, led by freshman guard Rob Dillingham. Dillingham had 11 first-half points and finished with 16.

"We were able to block out. We were able to stay in front of the ball incredibly well in these last two games against some uber talented offensive guys, super quick. I mean, Dillingham, holy smokes," Paris said. "We did a good job of staying in front of guys and making them shoot shots that are a little more difficult."

Wright finished his productive night with 14 points, shooting 57.1% from three. South Carolina shot 48.3% from the field and 45.8% from three as a team. 

“I just feel like we played through our offense. Just took the shots we were given, and we just happened to knock them down tonight," Wright said. "We saw a few go in early, so we just kept shooting."

South Carolina headed into the locker room leading 33-25 at halftime.

In the second half, the Wildcats and Gamecocks traded scoring runs until South Carolina put up stops and brought the lead to double digits. 

The Gamecocks built on its momentum to record its largest lead of the night with 20 points and about six minutes left in the game

"We're up 18 points because we shot the ball well," Paris said. "Without shooting it well, maybe you're up only a couple or here or there."

Cooper was a large part of South Carolina's offensive success, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks. He also shot eight of 11 from the field. 

“Ta'Lon is the consummate winner. He's been on a mission," Paris said. "I think he wanted to make sure that success is something that this team achieves. And so he gives himself to the team."

Senior forward Josh Gray contributed with a strong game coming off the bench, scoring 9 points and grabbing six rebounds. Defensively, he was able to minimize the impact of Kentucky’s freshman bigs. 

“Coach Paris has always told me to be big," Gray said. "I knew this game, he was gonna need it the most. And they have three 7-footers, but they're all freshmen, so I got the experience factor."

South Carolina's leading scorer of the season, junior guard Meechie Johnson, scored 14 points, even though he only made five of 11 from the field. 

”Our team's not built around depending upon one person to have to score," Paris said. "In any particular game, it's gonna be Ta'Lon, or Colin, or B.J.'s had big games, or Jacobi's come up with a bunch of shots, or Zach's had 12 points in the last game. Or there's a lot of guys, and that's kind of the way we do it ... That's the beauty of having an unselfish team.”

South Carolina improves to 16-3 on the season and 4-2 in SEC play. Next, the team will face Missouri at home on Saturday, Jan. 27. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.