By PETE IACOBELLI, Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Anthony Davis had 22 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks as No. 1 Kentucky wiped away the memories of the last time the top-ranked Wildcats came to South Carolina with an 86-52 victory Saturday night.
Kentucky (23-1) has won 15 straight and moved to 9-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in seven years. And they'll stay atop the rankings, unlike in 2010 when the No. 1 Wildcats were stunned 68-62 by the Gamecocks.
This time, Davis and Terrence Jones made sure there wouldn't be a similar flop. The two combined for 34 points in the first half as Kentucky took a 52-25 lead at the break and eventually increased the margin to 41 points.
Damien Leonard scored a career-high 19 points for South Carolina (9-13, 1-7).
Davis made his first nine shots, finishing 9 of 10, and added two steals.
Davis, who sat for long stretches of the second half, got back in the game with about six minutes to go and looked as though he might have a chance at the program's second-ever triple double. But when he took a hard spill on a collision with Anthony Gill, Kentucky coach John Calipari took his prized freshman out for good to the applause of several thousand Wildcats fans at the Colonial Life Arena.
Doron Lamb had 18 points off three 3-pointers and Jones finished with 16 points.
The 6-foot-10 Davis and the 6-9 Jones did most of the damage as Kentucky got things in hand early on. The two combined for eight dunks in the first half, including four straight during one stretch of the period as Kentucky moved in front 23-10 with 13:12 remaining before the break.
South Carolina made one last drive to get back in it when Leonard hit a pair of 3s that cut the lead to 25-18.
The Wildcats then took off on a 17-2 run the next six minutes — Jones scored nine of the points and Davis five — to take control.
Davis didn't stop with a big lead, either. He grabbed a rebound from about 18 feet out as the shot-clock buzzer sounded and glided in for his fifth jam of the period to increase Kentucky's margin to 52-25 at the break.
The Gamecocks, who have just one senior on the roster, appeared shellshocked through most the period. The team's best inside presence in 6-9 Damontre Harris played only seven minutes after getting three fouls. Malik Cooke and Bruce Ellington, South Carolina's top two scorers, were a combined 1 of 10 from the floor for 3 points.
Kentucky kept it going with an 11-4 run to open the second half and eventually grew the lead to 41 points as the large Wildcat contingent of fans shouted, "Go Big Blue!" in the final minutes.
The Wildcats have rolled since their only loss of the season, 73-72 at Indiana back on Dec. 10, with 14 straight wins. That's included a dominant first half run through the SEC, winning seven of their nine league games by 13 points or more.
The Gamecocks who opened league play 0-4 for the first time since 2007 seemed to find some confidence in their play last week with their first league win, 56-54 over Alabama, and a last-second, 66-62, loss at Ole Miss. They put on a strong showing but fell again two days ago at No. 12 Florida, 74-66.
Those were the same circumstances as two years ago when the Gamecocks pulled off their upset of No. 1 Kentucky. Devan Downey had 30 points and led a 12-4 run late in the second half as the Gamecocks took control and stayed out front for the team's first-ever win against No. 1 team.
The basketball Gamecocks began a trend of toppling No. 1s that swept through the athletic department in 2010. The baseball team defeated No. 1 Arizona State on the way to a College World Series crown. And the football team beat No. 1 Alabama that fall as it won the SEC Eastern Division.
None of that mattered to these Wildcats, who won their fifth in a row over South Carolina.
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