LEXINGTON, Ky. | Darrin Horn and Devan Downey's mastery of Kentucky could last only so long.
It ended Thursday night - at least for now - in convincing fashion. The South Carolina men's basketball team trailed wire-to-wire in an 82-61 loss to the second-ranked Wildcats in front of star-studded Rupp Arena crowd of 24,355.
The loss snapped the Gamecocks' three-game winning streak against the SEC's most storied program.
A month ago, USC shocked then-No. 1 Kentucky at Colonial Life Arena. This time, Kentucky's inside play and transition offense were too much for the Gamecocks.
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USC (14-13, 5-8 SEC) closed to within six midway through the first half, but Kentucky (27-1, 12-1) pulled away and padded the lead in the final minutes.
"I thought we fought. It kinda got away from us in the end," Downey said. "In all reality, I think they won by 20, but if you watch the game, it wasn't a 20-point game."
Horn, a Lexington native, said he was happy with the way his players competed, especially in the loudest, most hostile environment they will face this season.
"The only time I was upset was when I called a timeout late when we missed a shot and nobody ran back on defense," he said.
Magic Johnson and Ben Roethlisberger were among those who watched Downey get off to a slow start. Downey recovered to score a game-high 26 points. The senior, who played under a barrage of boos, is averaging 22.2 points per game against Kentucky.
Downey - who had four rebounds, five assists and two steals - had a better individual performance than his two main competitors for SEC player of the year: Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins (19 points, 11 rebounds) and John Wall (12 points, four assists, five rebounds.)
But it was the reigning league player of the year, Patrick Patterson, who did the most damage. Often overlooked this season, the junior poured in 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Kentucky feasted on inside baskets, including a number of second-chance layups. The Wildcats were credited with 56 points in the paint.
"They posted everybody on their team at one point," Horn said, only half-joking.
That was the difference between this game and January's contest, according to USC freshman forward Lakeem Jackson.
"At our place, we were really locked in on (defense), everyone was really locked in on getting the stops in transition and knowing our roles," Jackson said. "But in this game we didn't play really good defense; (Kentucky's) posts were posting wherever they wanted to."
The rebounding also wasn't there for the Gamecocks, as it was in the first matchup. Kentucky had a 47-31 advantage on the boards.
"We didn't play great-great. But we played well enough to win," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "(USC) played hard. They played the way they needed to play. They didn't make the shots they made down at South Carolina.
Kentucky raced to an 11-2 lead, but USC eventually closed the gap to 23-21 on USC's Sam Muldrow alley-oop at the 9:38 mark. But the Gamecocks scored only five more points the rest of the half -- the last on a 3 by Downey as the half ended. Kentucky's lead was 37-26 at the break.
The Gamecocks again rallied in the second half, getting to within six after trailing by as many as 16. Downey powered USC back, scoring 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Jackson had a solid game, scoring 16 points. But Brandis Raley-Ross, USC's second-leading scorer, struggled. The senior had five points and was 1-for-6 on 3-pointers.
"We knew coming into the game the difference is transition and rebounding," Horn said. "This is as dominant a team as I've ever seen in those two areas combined. (Shutting down those facets) was what we were able to do the first time we played."