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South Carolina Gamecocks at Kentucky Wildcats (2): Open Game Thread

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Today at 4:00 PM in legendary Rupp Arena, the South Carolina Gamecocks will face off against the #2 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the SEC season opener for both teams. Game particulars are as follows, courtesy of UKAthletics.com:

South Carolina @ Kentucky
Kentucky vs. South Carolina
Sat., Jan. 7 - 4:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Rupp Arena
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | USC Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK IMG
GameTracker
Live Video via ESPN3
Live Audio
Text Updates
Live Postgame Press Conference


For those needing to watch on ESPN3, the link to the game is here.

Darrin Horn brings his Gamecocks into the toughest spot in the SEC today. Kentucky has won 44 straight home games dating back to March 17th of 2009, the longest such streak currently in Division I basketball. South Carolina comes in with four straight wins, as well as six of their last seven after a shaky 2-5 start.

To win, the Wildcats need to:

  • Defend in the half court. South Carolina is a half-court offensive team, and typically does not do a lot in transition. They may try a surprise today, but I don't really expect it.
  • Be patient on offense. Against UALR, the Wildcats refused what the Trojans offered them and spent the first half driving the ball into a crowd and turning it over.
  • Control Bruce Ellington. Ellington is extremely explosive, and will definitely be tough on the ball. Kentucky can't give him room from the perimeter, so UK is going to have to trust the length of Davis and Jones when they get beat off the bounce.
  • Defensively rebound. The Gamecocks are a good offensive rebound percentage team, so the Wildcats need to get the ball after missed shots by USC.
  • Avoid turnovers. South Carolina likes to pressure on defense and try to force turnovers. UK must be patient and make the easy play.
  • Close out the three. USC has a couple of guys who can really shoot that shot.

This game, on paper, looks like a mismatch, but South Carolina is much more talented than any foe the Wildcats have faced in the last six games other than Louisville. The Gamecocks can run, and jump, and they have a couple of small but deadly guards who can light it up from the perimeter.

I look for a competitive game well into the second half, and then for the Wildcats to pull away. Hopefully, they are more focused than they were versus UALR.