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South Carolina Gamecocks 55, Kentucky Wildcats 77: Postmortem

For once, the Kentucky Wildcats defeated an opponent convincingly. They even beat the spread.

Ryan Harrow was terrific tonight.
Ryan Harrow was terrific tonight.
Andy Lyons

This was a game Kentucky should have won by a large margin, and they did. From the start of the game to the end, Kentucky looked comfortable (sometimes, a little too comfortable) and were never seriously threatened in this one.

Kudos to South Carolina for playing hard, but they did not play well. South Carolina struggled to keep Kentucky from scoring, and then found it very difficult to score themselves. Despite the fact that they forced an obscene seventeen turnovers, they simply could not shoot over the Wildcats and they couldn't make free throws. For the Gamecocks, it was just a struggle all night in storied Rupp Arena.

This was as close to a complete game as Kentucky has come all year, and even so it still has some glaring deficiencies, like an atrocious seventeen turnovers, which I mentioned before. South Carolina force about half of those, and the other half were just plain ballhandling errors.

But the Wildcats did shoot it well as a team, and shooting the ball well masks a lot of flaws. Kentucky also passed the ball very well as a team when they weren't giving it to the Gamecocks, and as a result, the 'Cats shot a satisfying 61% from the field, including 62.5% from the arc.

Player observations:

  • Ryan Harrow, Nerlens Noel, and Julius Mays all played outstanding games I don't have to pick one over the other, but I'm going to anyway, just because I have been so hard on him lately. 12 points on 6-6 shooting, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover. If I had a criticism, it would be some lazy defense and going under a couple of screens. Game ball: Harrow.
  • Noel was great, again. He seems to always be great. If I had a criticism, it would be his poor percentage considering where he was taking his shots from, but he was just great. 10 points on 5-8 shooting 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 turnovers.
  • Uncle Julius was fantastic for the second straight game. He did everything well, making several clutch shots as the shot clock wound down. He defended well again, and there really isn't anything for me to criticize about this game. 15 points on 4-5 shooting (all from the arc), 3-3 from the line, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 2 turnovers.
  • Kyle Wiltjer had a quiet game. He just didn't do much. 5 points on 1-4 shooting, 6 rebounds and 3 turnovers.
  • I thought Alex Poythress played with a ton of energy tonight, but the technical flaws and immaturity of his game keep getting in the way of big performances. The classic example was two offensive rebounds where he went straight back up into the teeth of the defense and got blocked, rather than using a shot fake to draw the foul. Still, decent effort. 7 points on 2-5 shooting, a perfect 3-3 from the line, 9 rebounds 1 steal, 1 block and 4 turnovers.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein had such a perfectly WCS game, it's amazing. He almost always does the same thing every game, and in this one, he played just like he'd never missed any time at all. 13 points on 5-7 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and he made 2-3 from the line. He was also very solid defensively and started the break several times, and got a big 50/50 ball that turned into a basket.
  • Archie Goodwin also played reasonably well, although he still struggled to shoot a decent percentage from both the field and the line. 13 points on 3-8 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 3 turnovers.
  • Jarrod Polson did what he always does -- came in and gave a few good minutes off the bench. Polson had 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers.
  • Jon Hood got in late and scored a basket on a nice drive down the lane.

Team observations

  • This was the most schizophrenic ballhandling performance I have seen from any team -- 17 turnovers and 13 assists.
  • Kentucky took good care of the defensive boards, but managed only 23% offensive rebounds. This is a continuing problem for the Wildcats, but they did get a higher percentage than the Gamecocks, who only managed 18%.
  • I thought the defense in the middle of the game was good. In the beginning and end, it wasn't so great.
  • It sure is nice to win a game the way we should.
  • We are seeing more and more good stretches from Kentucky. This is a very good sign.

Nice win for Kentucky, and I'm happy. I'm sure most of you are, also. For this team, this particular game probably represents a high point for the season.

Next up: Auburn Tigers in Rupp Arena.