Kentucky Wildcats at South Carolina Gamecocks: Game Preview

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina provides an opportunity for Kentucky to atone for their loss at home versus Arkansas.

The Kentucky Wildcats travel down to Columbia today to play the South Carolina Gamecocks in a game only 48 hours removed from arguably their most painful loss of the season to the Arkansas Razorbacks.

General

About South Carolina:

  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina
  • Conference: SEC
  • Head Coach: Frank Martin (since 2012)
  • NCAA Appearances: 8
  • Most recent NCAA appearance: 2004
  • Most recent NCAA win: 2003
  • Founded: 1801
  • Enrollment: 20,589
  • Last season's record 14-18 overall, 4-14 in conference

Source: Basketball State

Season so far for South Carolina:

  • Season record: 10-18 (3-2 SEC)

South Carolina is extremely young and raw, and they have had a hard time finding wins all season long, but particularly in the SEC. USC has a quality win against St. Mary's on a neutral court, and back-to-back wins against the Vanderbilt Commodores and Alabama Crimson Tide earlier this month. They've lost their last three games, however, by double-digit margins.

Series history

South Carolina joined the SEC along with Arkansas in 1991, so Kentucky has only been playing the Gamecocks as a conference foe for 23 years. Right now, the record between the two teams stands at 47-10 Kentucky

The Gamecocks have only had one winning streak against the Wildcats, three in a row between January of 2009 and January of 2010. The Gamecocks gave John Calipari's first team a loss in Columbia, and that is the only time the Gamecocks have beaten Kentucky during the Calipari era.

Source: BigBlueHistory.net

Stats

Team Comparison

Rank and Records UK USC
RPI #13 #185
Strength of Schedule #5 #68
Overall 21-7 10-18
Conference 11-4 3-12
Home 15-2 8-6
Away 5-3 0-11
Top 25 1-3 0-1
RPI Top 50 2-4 0-4

Courtesy of Statsheet.com

Team Rosters

# Name Status Pos Height Weight Class Hometown Games PPG RPG APG
0 Sindarius Thornwell S G 6-5 206 Fr. Lancaster, SC 28 13.4 4 2.9
1 Brenton Williams S** G 5-11 172 Sr. Kissimmee, FL 28 14.7 1.9 1.2
21 Demetrius Henry S F 6-9 215 Fr. Miami, FL 28 4.4 3.5 0.4
24 Michael Carrera S** F 6-5 214 So. Anzoategui 27 6.4 5.7 0.5
25 Mindaugas Kacinas S** F 6-7 210 So. Klaipeda 28 5.2 4.8 0.3
10 Duane Notice MR G 6-2 221 Fr. Woodbridge, Ontario 28 7.6 2.7 2.9
14 Laimonas Chatkevicius MR* F 6-11 250 So. Klaipeda 27 4.2 3.5 0.3
23 Bruce Ellington MR*# G 5-9 196 Sr. Moncks Corner, SC 3 5.7 1.3 1.7
4 Tyrone Johnson R+- G 6-3 194 Jr. Plainfield, NJ 16 11.2 2.9 3.4
5 Jaylen Shaw R G 6-0 182 Fr. Hartsville, SC 25 3.3 0.5 1.2
12 Austin Constable R* G 5-11 180 So. West Chester, PA 3 0 0 0
15 Reggie Theus Jr. R F 6-6 210 Fr. Los Angeles, CA 9 0.7 0.7 0.2
20 Justin McKie R G 6-4 195 Fr. Columbia, SC 14 0.6 1.1 0.4
32 Desmond Ringer R F 6-9 255 Fr. McDonough, GA 23 2.5 2.2 0.3
35 Brian Steele R* F 6-5 200 So. Greenville, SC 16 2.2 1 0.6
45 Carlton Geathers R*- F 6-10 255 Jr. Georgetown, S.C.
















Legend









S Starter









MR Major Reserve









R Reserve









* Returning player









** Returning starter









+ Transfer, eligible









- Injured, out for game/season









# Left the team









Courtesy of Basketball State

Four Factors

South Carolina: Team Notes

  • South Carolina is painfully young. Not as young as Kentucky, but they do have two freshmen starters and one key freshman reserve.
  • South Carolina is last in the conference in turnover percentage. They don't handle the ball well at all.
  • The Gamecocks are a poor defensive team, 2nd from the bottom of the conference. They are dead last in steals.
  • South Carolina struggles to put points on the board from everywhere but the perimeter. They are the best 3-point shooting team in the SEC.
  • The Gamecocks are an above-average free throw shooting team, and they are a solid offensive rebounding club.

South Carolina: Player notes

  • Sindarius Thornwell is a dangerous slasher who draws a lot of fouls.
  • Brenton Williams is a very capable scorer, and one of the most efficient players in college basketball. He is particularly dangerous from three, shooting 44%
  • Michael Carrera is a very good offensive rebounder. He's no Julius Randle, but he gets his share. Unfortunately, he is quite foul-prone.

Injuries

  • Tyrone Johnson is out indefinitely with a broken foot. Carlton Geathers is out for the season with a chronic knee problem.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Brenton Williams vs. Andrew Harrison — Williams is another small, sweet-shooting point guard in the mold of Anthony Hickey. Harrison has struggled to guard these guys all year, and now Harrison is playing his worst basketball of the season

Advantage: South Carolina

  • Sindarius Thornwell vs. Aaron Harrison — This is a good matchup for Harrison. Thornwell is more of a slasher than a spot-up shooter, and although he has good size, Harrison is bigger and stronger. Thornwell is also a little bit foul prone

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Michael Carrera vs. James Young — Carrera is a solid rebounder, but he gives up athleticism and length to Young, who is better at virtually everything, except when he isn't. Still, Young gets the best of this matchup.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Mindaugas Kacinas vs. Julius Randle — Kacinas is smaller, weaker, and really doesn't have a perimeter game. This one is no contest, although I don't expect Randle to be one-on-on with anybody.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Demetrius Henry vs. Dakari Johnson/Willie Cauley-Stein — Henry is a role player, doesn't score much and will have a hard time with WCS because of his superior size and athleticism. Johnson is just too big for Henry to handle in the post.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Kentucky has the better bench with Alex Poythress, Jarrod Polson, WCS or Johnson all being significant contributors. Duane Notice is a very nice freshman coming off the bench for Frank Martin, Laimonas Chatkevicius gives them some size. Bruce Ellington left the team to enter the NFL draft, so that does even more damage to the Gamecock bench.

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

South Carolina is a very limited team this season due to injuries, losses, and youth. They are at the bottom of the SEC in most categories that matter, and have floundered this season due to the aforementioned. The one thing that makes them a threat is their three-point shooting, which is really good. Kentucky's task today will be to minimize the number of looks that South Carolina gets from three.

For Kentucky, they can absolutely lose this game if they give another performance shooting the ball like they did against Arkansas on Thursday. I have no idea what to make of this Kentucky team right now, and if they struggle to win this game, it's not impossible that they might fold like a house of cards. But I don't think that will happen against this Gamecocks squad, they are just too young and small.

South Carolina is just the kind of medicine Kentucky needs right now. The Gamecocks should not be a threat to defeat Kentucky, but they are going to give them a game. The only way Kentucky loses is if they completely fail open, even worse than they did against Arkansas. Just an average shooting day and good three-point defense will get Kentucky a fairly stress-free win.

Unfortunately, these Wildcats don't seem to understand that you have to take every opponent seriously, even the not-so-good ones, so I can't rule out a catastrophic upset here. But it should be very unlikely.

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