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February 4, 2012

Davis leads UK to another dominating win

COLUMBIA, S.C. - There wasn't much time to make a last push for the elusive triple-double, and Anthony Davis was getting anxious.

Davis and No. 1 Kentucky were cruising toward the finish of an 86-52 demolition of South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena, and Davis - with that triple-double within reach - got a bit overzealous in attempting to block a shot by the Gamecocks' Anthony Gill.

"First off, I left my feet," Davis said.

"Which he shouldn't have done," UK coach John Calipari said. "He just keeps leaving his feet 30 feet from the basket. What are you doing? Just stay down."

Davis came crashing down first onto Gill, then to the floor. Calipari - whose staff had talked him into the idea of inserting Davis to chase the triple-double - had seen enough. With 4:46 to play, Davis went to the bench with his final numbers: 22 points, eight rebounds, eight blocked shots.

"I didn't even know I was that close until I came to the bench and people were telling me two more blocks and two more rebounds," Davis said. "Coach Cal told me he was going to play us two or three more minutes, but unfortunately I didn't get it. There's always another game."

After Saturday night's, South Carolina coach Darrin Horn suggested Davis might be the best player in college basketball.

"I would say he's playing that way," Calipari said.

And Kentucky is playing like the game's best team.

The Wildcats (23-1, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) have won 15 straight games since an at-the-buzzer beating at Indiana. They've won five straight games on the road and have beaten their last four opponents by an average of 21.5 points per game.

Asked if Saturday's showing at South Carolina (9-13, 1-7) was as good as Kentucky's been this season, Calipari quickly replied, "Yes."

"It didn't matter who we played," Calipari said. "Somebody was getting beat by 30 today because of how we played. It wasn't South Carolina, it was us."

It was Doron Lamb, who snapped out of a road scoring funk with 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including 3-for-3 from three-point range. It was Terrence Jones, who was aggressive in tallying 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. It was even Kyle Wiltjer, who came off the bench and shook off a shaky start to finish with 12 points and four rebounds.

Mostly, though, it was Davis.

The 6-foot-10 freshman made 9-of-10 shots, seven of them dunks. The Cats would slash, Davis would cut to the rim, and the lob pass was available.

"The few times our defense was adequate on the drive, they would just throw it up over top of (us)," Horn said. "That makes it difficult."

When Davis wasn't swatting South Carolina's shots - he's up to 116 on the season, breaking Shaquille O'Neal's SEC freshman record of 115 - he was setting up shop in the Gamecocks' heads.

At one point, forward Malik Cooke drove into the lane for a series of pump-fakes, only to kick the ball back outside for fear of Davis' presence.

"You can do a great job of getting to the rim, and the hard part is, you try to do things like get him away from the basket, get him involved in pick-on-the-ball action and all those things, but everybody does that," Horn said. "And he still ends up with over four blocks a game. He's very, very good at what he does."

But not quite good enough to get that triple-double. Davis has flirted with one, but he's yet to seal the deal. And that's why the Kentucky staff appealed to Calipari to give him one last crack.

He did, but only until Davis hit the deck.

"That's why you don't do it," Calipari said. "We were up 40. He didn't need to be in the game."

Then the UK coach turned to Davis and said, "And I'll be honest. Do you care about that?"

Davis shook his head no.

"Yes he does," Calipari said.


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