By LARRY VAUGHT
COLUMBIA, S.C. — How many times have you heard Kentucky coach John Calipari warn that every time UK goes on the road it is a “Super Bowl” for the opposing teams with all kind of special promotions and giveaways.
South Carolina’s crowd certainly had an impact during Tuesday’s 76-68 victory over Kentucky.
“We’ve got incredible fans at this school. They make an unbelievable difference for our basketball team when they show up,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said after the win.
“The students are back. Our level of energy in this building, when we were struggling there in the second half, going through that moment, we made a shot, then we got a stop and the crowd started going nuts and it gave our guys life. … And it rattled Kentucky and that gave us an opportunity to get back in the game.”
It was Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox’s first trip to South Carolina. The crowd left an impression on him even if he led UK with 21 points.
“They got loud. They weren’t loud when we were up 14, of course. When it kind of changed the game with the intentional foul and they started hitting some shots, the next thing you know the crowd started getting into it,” Knox said.
“We missed some key free throws that we should have made down the stretch. I think the crowd definitely played a big impact because they got up and got loud and they were really into it.”
Calipari tried to tell his players when they lacked focus during Tuesday’s shootaround that South Carolina would have a “packed house” for the Wildcats.
“Normally we have some fans here too. I imagine they never could really get into the game, especially at the end. It was a great crowd. I imagine they had a good time and enjoyed themselves,” Calipari said.