COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Alanzo Frink's shot went in and the place erupted. This wasn't a Bronx cheer because the home team actually made a free throw. This was a real cheer, the kind a home crowd produces when its squad is giving a high-powered rival a fight in the second half.
South Carolina, offensively challenged, foul troubled and all around over-matched by No. 10 Kentucky, was making a game of this Wednesday night at Colonial Life Arena.
The team that missed its first 10 field-goal attempts, that was trending toward the worst shooting performance of the Frank Martin era and the team that entered on a three-game losing streak fought to this point. They had cut a double-digit deficit down to within striking distance and the garnet and black supporters were feeling it.
They could be seen on the floor when it all ended.
Fans rushed the floor after Jermaine Couisnard banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give South Carolina a dramatic 81-78 win.
Perhaps Martin's bunch is ready to make an SEC push after all. South Carolina is now 9-7 and 1-2 in the SEC. UK dropped to 12-4 (4-0).
Nervous moments were everywhere late. AJ Lawson missed a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left, leading to Kentucky possession, down two. The Wildcats responded with an Immanuel Quickley bucket to tie it, setting up Couisnard's final shot.
Couisnard made the most of his first career start by scoring a career-high 26 points. His driving layup with 4:25 left tied the game at 68. The redshirt freshman responded to his coach's call for more aggression out of the point guard spot and spent the majority of his night in attack mode.
It was needed as three other regulars -- Jair Bolden, A.J. Lawson, Maik Kotsar -- were relative non-factors. Bolden, in a slump since the Virginia win, was glued to the bench. Lawson was held to five points. Kotsar got in early foul trouble and didn't score.
The best sequence of plays went to Justin Minaya. The redshirt sophomore, seemingly in a season-long offensive rut, made a 3 on one possession and then created a steal and made a layup on the next to give Carolina a 73-70 lead with 3:15 remaining.
Lawson, quiet for so long, then drove and converted to make it a 75-70 game.
It made for bedlam in Colonial Life Arena as fans who witnessed the Gamecocks go down by as many as 14 earlier in the second half saw a furious rally.
Quickley scored a team-high 20 points for Kentucky.
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