South Carolina wallops No. 6 Kentucky as 7-2 phenom Zvonimir Ivišić falls back to earth

South Carolina's Collin Murray-Boyles dunks over Kentucky's Zvonimir Ivišić (44) on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)

Zvonimir Ivišić dazzled in his Kentucky debut on Sunday, seemingly cementing the Wildcats on the short list of national title contenders in a 105-96 win over Georgia.

On Tuesday, he fell back to earth as the sixth-ranked Wildcats laid an unexpected egg in a 79-62 loss to unranked South Carolina.

Ivišić scored just three points in limited action, and Kentucky's starters struggled to score or defend South Carolina from the 3-point line. When it was over, the South Carolina home crowd stormed the court as the Gamecocks further solidified their status as a likely NCAA tournament team.

Ivišić fresh off stunning NCAA debut

Kentucky vaulted to the top 10 early in the season and has remained there despite the absence of multiple key players. One of those missing players was Ivišić, a 7-foot-2 Croatian phenom whose NCAA eligibility was in question amid reports that he played for a professional team in Montenegro.

The NCAA cleared Ivišić on Saturday in time for Sunday's game against the Bulldogs. He put on a show with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks while shooting 5-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-4 from 3-point distance in just 16 minutes off the bench. It was everything and more that Kentucky could ask for from a player Yahoo Sports' Krysten Peek just pegged as the No. 9 pick in her latest mock draft.

Road test proves tough for Ivišić

Tuesday proved a different story. Ivišić was largely a nonfactor in 10 minutes off the bench, logging three points, two rebounds and two blocks as South Carolina ran away with the game.

He struggled in the paint against the stronger, 260-pound forward B.J. Mack. Freshman forward Collin Murray-Boyles, meanwhile, posted the highlight of the night with an emphatic dunk over Ivišić early in the second half.

The blowout loss isn't on Ivišić, of course. South Carolina shot 48.3% from the floor and 45.8% (11-for-24) from 3-point distance in part because of a collapse by the entire Kentucky defense.

On offense, freshman Justin Edwards didn't help his tumbling draft projections with a two-point, two-rebound effort while attempting a single field goal in 23 minutes. The former lottery prospect is falling off the first round of projected draft boards. Fellow draft hopeful D.J. Wagner, meanwhile, shot 2-of-10 from the field while tallying four points and three assists.

Rob Dillingham's 16 points and Antonio Reeves' 15 weren't enough to keep pace in an otherwise dismal offensive effort that saw Kentucky shoot 40.3% from the floor and 30.8% from 3-point distance. The Wildcats also had few answers on defense for a surging South Carolina squad that improved to 16-3 and 4-2 in the SEC.

Senior Ta'Lon Cooper led the Gamecocks' effort with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists on an 8-of-11 night. Meechie Johnson added 14 points and four assists, while Jacobi Wright posted 14 points and two rebounds off the bench.

None of this is to say that Kentucky isn't a bona fide contender or that Ivišić isn't the high-end prospect he showed flashes of in his Sunday debut. He's not the first to be at less than his best while playing for the first time in front of a hostile SEC crowd.

But it does temper the excitement drummed up from Sunday's win in Lexington. The Wildcats have three days to regroup before another SEC road test at Arkansas.