LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Malik Monk scored 27 points, Bam Adebayo added 18 and No. 5 Kentucky overcame an ankle injury to starting guard De'Aaron Fox to beat No. 24 South Carolina 85-69 on Saturday and take over first place in the Southeastern Conference.

The showdown of the SEC's lone unbeaten teams in league play featured a subplot of injuries to key players on both squads. Fox, Kentucky's No. 2 scorer, turned his right ankle midway through the first half; he returned early in the second on crutches with his foot in a soft cast. His injury followed the pregame scratch of Gamecocks guard and No. 2 scorer P.J. Dozier with back spasms.

The Wildcats (17-2, 7-0 SEC) regrouped without Fox and earned the hard-fought victory thanks to Monk, who made 9 of 14 from the field and 5 of 6 free throws after struggling against Mississippi State. Adebayo added a series of dunks and Derek Willis added 12 points and 7 rebounds as Kentucky won its seventh straight.

Sindarius Thornwell scored a career-high 34 points and Temarcus Blanton 12 for South Carolina (15-4, 5-1 SEC), which had won five straight.


South Carolina: Losing Dozier beforehand left the Gamecocks scrambling to replace nearly 15 points per game against the nation's No. 3 offence. After initially struggling they recovered to keep it close behind Thornwell, who shot 9 of 23 but hit 14 of 15 free throws. Ultimately, there just wasn't enough offence or rebounding to keep up with Kentucky.

Kentucky: Mychal Mulder's absence because of sickness didn't seem like a big concern until Fox got hurt, initially leaving Wildcats looking out of sorts and resulting in sloppy play that allowed the Gamecocks to make it a game. They still looked ragged at times yet adjusted and got welcome contributions from Willis, Wenyen Gabriel (11 points) and others. Shooting 58 per cent and outrebounding the Gamecocks 32-27 also helped.


South Carolina: Hosts Auburn Tuesday night before travelling to Missouri next Saturday.

Kentucky: Hosts No. 2 Kansas next Saturday in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Wildcats are 22-7 against the Jayhawks but lost 90-84 in overtime a year ago in Lawrence in one of last season's most thrilling games.