Updated at: 01/24/2013 9:07 PM
By JEFFREY COLLINS
(AP) COLUMBIA, S.C. - Ieasia Walker had 16 points and eight rebounds as No. 18 South Carolina beat No. 5 Kentucky 55-50 on Thursday night, ended the Wildcats’ nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games.
Kentucky (18-2, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) led for most of the second half before the Gamecocks went on an 18-4 run to take a 52-44 lead with 3:34 left. South Carolina (17-3, 5-2) hit only three free throws the rest of the game, but the SEC’s best defense was able to hang on.
Ashley Bruner ended Kentucky’s last chance knocking away an inbound pass with 12.7 seconds left to give South Carolina’s its first win over a top-five team in 12 tries under fifth-year coach Dawn Staley.
Aleighsa Welch scored 11 points and had seven rebounds and Elem Ibiam added eight points and eight rebounds for South Carolina.
Jennifer O’Neil led Kentucky with 17 points, while DeNesha Stallworth added 12 points and 10 rebounds, and A’dia Mathies also scored 12 points.
Kentucky came into the game as the second-best offense in the SEC at 79 points a game. However, South Carolina allows a league-low 48 points a game and has held every opponent but one under 60 points.
Kentucky went almost nine minutes without a point in the first half, and scored just one bucket in six minutes as South Carolina built its biggest lead of the game at eight points. The Wildcats shot 32.8 percent (19 for 58) from the field. A Kentucky team that leads the SEC by forcing 10 more turnovers than its opponents, turned the ball over 18 times _ two more than South Carolina.
The Gamecocks even overcame their biggest weakness. South Carolina is next-to-last in Division I in free throws, shooting just 54 percent. But they hit 10 of their last 16 free throws, even though they shot just 48 percent from the line in the game (13 for 27).
The Wildcats hadn’t lost since an 85-51 defeat to then No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 13. But they appeared rattled down the stretch. O’Neil missed a teammate entirely with a pass with Kentucky down three with 17 seconds to go. The Wildcats turned it over again 5 seconds later.
South Carolina scored five more points on the fast break against a Kentucky team that prides itself on its pressure
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