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No. 5 USC wins, loses Coates for SEC Championship game

Kentucky had their hands full facing South Carolina as the Wildcats were without starting point guard Taylor Murray. The Gamecocks were also slightly limited with Alaina Coates only playing a couple minutes after reinjuring her ankle. Makayla Epps’ 31-points wasn’t enough to get the upset.

Greenville, S.C — When No. 4 seed Kentucky Wildcats took on No. 1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks, UK had a chip on its shoulder. The Wildcats fell 95-87 less than a week beforehand. So when Kentucky lost 89-77 it was a double whammy.

After getting the tip, the Gamecocks played like they’re on home court with their fans dominating the crowd. Eardrums were shattered when A’ja Wilson took the court -- are we sure this isn’t Colonial Life Arena? It felt like it. USC was killing both sides of the ball, even forcing Kentucky to miss eight attempts in a row with just under five minutes left.

Wildcat fans nearly had a panic moment when Makayla Epps went down. But just minutes later she was back in and picking up where she left off with a layup at 4:05. Before going down, she had 8 points and 3 rebounds.

The Gamecocks led Kentucky 47-36 at halftime.

The crowd went wild when Tyasha Harris’ three-pointer beat the shot clock at 5:09 in the third. Soon though the cheering wasn’t heard around the arena.

Even though she only put in three minutes after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the season, Alaina Coates was vocal from the bench all game. She came back in at 1:45 in the third and went down on her ankle with 45 seconds left in the third as the arena went silent.

Kentucky crept up on South Carolina. At the 2:16 mark, it was down by four and then by two at 1:11 on a pair of Epps’ shots.

South Carolina narrowly held onto their lead, 64-63, when the third closed and it remained neck-and-neck for the rest of the game as each point was battled for.

Wilson and Epps had the most impact on the game with 26 and 31 points, respectively.

The entire arena was on its feet as the Gamecocks were up by seven with 2:15 left. Just seconds later, Allisha Gray stretched that to nine with a fast-break layup.

The Wildcats fought hard at the hands of Epps and Evelyn Akhator but didn’t prevail after the Gamecocks drew foul after foul.

South Carolina advances to the championship round to play the winner of Mississippi State versus Texas A&M game.