Kentucky Wildcats center Olivia Owens (00) fights for a rebound during the University of Kentucky vs. Tennessee women's basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 71-56. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Zia Cooke had 21 points to lead all scorers, and her Gamecocks again dominated the interior to dismantle the No. 17 Cats 76-55 in Rhyne Howard and crew’s second straight road contest.

Kyra Elzy’s bunch hadn’t taken the court since Monday after having its home date with LSU postponed twice, demonstrating a quite a bit of rust throughout Sunday’s outing. Kentucky shot a poor 35% on the day, including 28% (5-of-18) behind-the-arc.

“Give all credit to South Carolina on this day,” the Wildcat head coach said postgame.

Not even Rhyne Howard could manage to find the bottom of the net at a high rate, going just 2-of-11 from the floor. A 6-for-6 showing at the free-throw line allowed her to reach 12 points to pace the Wildcats.

“We tried to limit the amount of times she came off [screens] with her right hand,” Gamecock legend Dawn Staley told reporters. “We [iced] her right… we wanted to make her a passer.”

“They did a great job of icing us, keeping us on one side of the floor,” Elzy essentially confirmed despite speaking first after the final buzzer. “We had some opportunities that we could have hit our post. Out post could have punched it down a gap or had an open shot… making them pay for icing the ball screen.”

Unfortunately for Kentucky, its players were unable to capitalize. They also had no answers in the paint, a familiar occurrence in the games they’ve lost. Today, the Gamecocks bullied their way to a mountainous 46-20 paint point advantage and whopping 49-30 edge in rebounds, which was in itself buoyed by an impressive 20-8 margin on the offensive glass. This all came despite excellent containment of standout sophomore Aliyah Boston, who connected on only one field goal and recorded a paltry four points.

“[We] did not have the toughness that we needed,” Elzy said. “We did it in spurts, but not consistently enough. You can’t do that against South Carolina… a very talented team and aggressive rebounders.”

“At the end of the day, we just did not get the job done.”

The blowout reaffirms a troubling trend for this Wildcat squad. While it’s still nine games above .500 (15-6, 8-5 SEC) on the season, and a lock for the NCAA Tournament barring something unforeseen, the sky doesn’t appear to be the limit anymore. Kentucky is a modest 4-5 away from Lexington, and has fallen by an average of 18.3 points per game in its three trips to current top-25 schools. If Kentucky hopes to reach its preseason aspirations, a disruption of these poor performances is required.

“You go back to work,” Elzy said. “All you can do is continue to put emphasis on it, continue to work on it in practice… [eventually], it will transfer to the game.”

The Cats had better ensure it does soon, because they won’t be waiting long to take on another top-25 foe in its own building. They’re slated to travel to Athens for an affair with No. 22 Georgia, who beat Tennessee today, on Thursday. Tip off is set for 7:00 p.m. E.T. on SEC Network.