The Kentucky Wildcats began their journey toward another SEC basketball title today by dispatching the South Carolina Gamecocks, 79-64, in Rupp Arena. Despite allowing 45 points from the Gamecocks in the second half, Kentucky carried a large lead into the locker room at halftime which Darrin Horn's team was unable to overcome.
The Gamecocks came to play today, particularly in the second half, and gave an outstanding effort characteristic of Horn's teams. Bruce Ellington is back with the basketball team for the duration now that football is over, and even though he struggled mightily shooting the ball at times, he had a lot more help this year than last, particularly from USC freshman Damien Leonard, who really played an outstanding game with 15 big points on 5-8 shooting, 3-6 from the arc. Well done to the Gamecocks, they are improving game by game and will be a team to be reckoned with next year.
Kentucky, as a team, played well for most of the game, but seemed to lose some intensity in the second half after they went up by 20 points. Another problem for Kentucky was the fact that they failed to rebound the ball on the defensive end, and struggled to get 50-50 balls and make the effort plays that South Carolina had no trouble making. If there is a troubling sign in this game for Kentucky fans, it is the effort they failed to expend fighting for the basketball.
- Terrence Jones was outstanding in many ways. Not only did he score, he played his usual good defense. What he failed to do was rebound, claiming only three balls off the backboard.
- Marquis Teague had maybe his best game as a Wildcat. Not only did he contain the dangerous Ellington on defense, he scored 17 points on 6-10 shooting, mostly layups. He also had 4 assists against only two turnovers. Game ball.
- Anthony Davis also played well, registering another double-double to go with seven blocked shots. The kid is a machine, and is arguably the most consistently excellent player on the team.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also played well, doing everything you could ask him to do. He turned the ball over too much, but otherwise played a good game.
- Doron Lamb was fine, garnering 10 points on 3-5 shooting with 3 rebounds and 2 assists against only one turnover.
- Kyle Wiltjer shot the ball very well, 2-3 from the field for 5 points.
- Kentucky's shooting was outstanding from everywhere.
Not so superlative:
- Kentucky's defensive rebounding stank. Period.
- Darius Miller was just okay. He shot the ball poorly, but did manage four assists. Overall, though, this wasn't his best effort on either end of the floor.
- Doron Lamb is still picking up cheesy fouls and is not where he needs to be defensively.
- Terrence Jones is still turning the ball over too much.
Overall, it's hard to be critical of anything in particular other than the rebounding. Kentucky played well on both ends, and handled the scoring-challenge Gamecocks easily and were never seriously threatened. But this is only the beginning of the season, and now Kentucky must go on the road to Auburn, and even though the Tigers are not a good team this year, the road has a tendency to impact younger players.
But the road trip doesn't end on the Plains. On the way home, the 'Cats must make a stop in Knoxville to be tested by the Tennessee Volunteers, big winners today in an upset over the Florida Gators.
The SEC season is now fully engaged, and it will be a challenge. Go, 'Cats!!