It took about 20 minutes for South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler to sift through the pixie dust of Sunday's magical 69-68 victory over Florida.
Shortly after sophomore swingman Travis Kraft drilled an NBA-range 3-pointer at the buzzer to oust the then-No. 5 Gators in Columbia, Fogler already was looking ahead to a daunting conference schedule.
"I want to try to get it in my team's head that the next eight weeks is a marathon," Fogler said. "It's a long eight weeks. (Sunday) was a sprint. It's one-sixteenth."
The second sixteenth is tonight in Lexington, Ky., where the Gamecocks (9-3, 1-0 SEC) will play Kentucky at Rupp Arena (8 p.m., FoxSN). Fogler isn't sure whether Sunday's exhilaration will translate into a victory away from home, but he knows he prefers it to the alternative.
"They're excited to come to practice," said Fogler, whose team follows tonight's game with a trip to No. 4 Tennessee on Saturday (noon, Ch. 26). "You lose and it's a different mentality. Does that mean you're going to play better the next time out? I don't necessarily think so."
The Wildcats (7-5, 1-0) have won four straight games, their longest winning streak since last February, after losing five of their first eight by a total of 14 points.
Since beating Kentucky at Rupp Arena to close the 1996-97 regular season, South Carolina has lost seven straight in the series by an average of 19 points.
So far, the Gamecocks have overcome subpar shooting by playing stout defense. They are holding foes to 65.6 points per game, and they limited the Gators to 68 points and four 3-pointers, both season lows. South Carolina has held nine opponents to 68 points or fewer and five under 60.
Despite its recent winning streak, there are plenty of signs that Kentucky isn't as invincible as it used to be. The Wildcats have squandered double-digit leads in the second half against Louisville and Georgia before pulling out victories, the latter by a 67-63 score last Saturday.
The Bulldogs open their home conference slate at home tonight against Auburn at 7:30.
Georgia's record is 7-7 (0-1 SEC), the same as it was at this point last season. Despite encouraging wins over Utah, Georgia Tech and Villanova, the Bulldogs have taken hits against a rugged schedule and lost to Minnesota, Stanford and California, among others.
Georgia has struggled offensively, averaging an SEC-low 72.2 points per game, but Auburn's defensive generosity might help the Bulldogs get back on track. The Tigers (10-4, 0-1) are last in scoring defense (75.5 ppg) and have surrendered 86 points or more in six games, including a 96-88 loss to Tennessee last week in double overtime.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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