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Kentucky Wildcats at South Carolina Gamecocks: Game Preview

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Colonial Life Arena in Columbia has been cruel to the undefeated Wildcats before.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats travel down to the midlands of South Carolina to the state capital of Columbia, where they will face off against the South Carolina Gamecocks for the right to move on to 19-0. Columbia is where the Wildcats’ last long winning streak went to die, so there is a bit of history there. Not only that, visit to the Palmetto State last season resulted in a disastrous loss that had some ‘Cat fans wondering if they’d make the NCAA Tournament field.

General

Gameday Information

Time: 12:00 PM Eastern
Date: Saturday, Jan 24th
Place: Columbia, SC
TV: ESPN
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live stats Link

Season so far for South Carolina:

Season record: 10-7, 1-4 Conference

This year, the Gamecocks had a bit of a hiccup or two in their first five games, losing narrowly to a good Baylor team, but also falling to Charlotte and Akron. Then, they got their wits about them and went on a 7-game winning streak, which included upsets of Oklahoma St. and Iowa St.

Then, USC got into SEC play and promptly dropped four of their first five games. They are currently on a two-game losing streak, having fallen to 66-62 to Tennessee on Tuesday in Colonial Life Arena.

Series history

The Gamecocks and Wildcats don’t exactly have a long or storied history, as the two teams have only met 58 times, the vast majority of which have occurred since 1992 when the Gamecocks joined the SEC. prior to that, Kentucky had only played South Carolina nine times, starting in 1928 and ending in 1979.

The Wildcats have won 47 of the 58 meetings (.81), but were fairly successful from 2009-2010, where USC won 3 out of the 4 contests. The Gamecocks also upset Kentucky last season in Columbia, as previously mentioned.

Stats

South Carolina Roster:

No. Name Pos. Hgt. Wgt. Status Cl. Exp. Hometown/High School/Last School
00 Sindarius Thornwell G 6-5 215 S** SO 1VL Lancaster, S.C./Oak Hill Academy
04 Tyrone Johnson G 6-3 195 S* SR 2VL Plainfield, N.J./Montrose Christian School/Villanova
10 Duane Notice G 6-2 212 S** SO 1VL Woodbridge, Canada/St. Michael's/St. Thomas More (Oakdale, Conn.)
14 Laimonas Chatkevicius F 6-11 251 S* JR 2VL Klaipeda, Lithuania/South Kent School
21 Demetrius Henry F/C 6-9 226 S** SO 1VL Miami, Fla./Faith Baptist Christian School
01 Marcus Stroman G 6-2 183 MR FR HS Columbia, S.C./Keenan
24 Michael Carrera F 6-5 212 MR** JR 2VL Anzoátegui, Venezuela/Montrose Christian School
25 Mindaugas Kacinas F 6-7 227 MR** JR 2VL Klaipeda, Lithuania/Word of Life Fire Traditional School
05 TeMarcus Blanton G 6-5 209 R FR HS Locust Grove, Ga./Luella
12 Shamiek Sheppard G/F 6-6 225 R FR HS Brooklyn, N.Y./South Shore/Fishburne Military School (Waynesboro City, Va.)
15 Reggie Theus Jr. F 6-6 221 R* SO 1VL Los Angeles, Calif./Fairfax
20 Justin McKie G 6-4 195 R* SO 1VL Columbia, S.C./Irmo
35 Brian Steele F 6-5 194 R* JR 2VL Greenville, S.C./Wade Hampton School
31 Austin Constable G 5-11 178 R@ JR 2VL West Chester, Pa./Henderson


















Legend
S Starter
MR Major reserve
R Reserve
* Returning player
** Returning starter
+ Eligible transfer/red shirt
- Ineligible
@ Walk on

Source: South Carolina Athletics

Team Comparison

Rank and Records UK USC
RPI #1 #119
Strength of Schedule #4 #78
Overall 18-0 10-7
Conference 5-0 1-4
Home 13-0 7-3
Away 3-0 1-2
Top 25 4-0 1-1
RPI Top 50 7-0 2-2
KenPom.com Rating #2 #47

Source: Statsheet.com

Four Factors

Offensive

uk-usc ff offensive

Defensive

uk-usc ff defensive

Courtesy of KenPom.com

South Carolina Team Notes

South Carolina is:

  • a good defensive team, except in SEC play, where they have been very bad.
  • an offensively-challenged team. In SEC play, they are averaging under 1 point/possession.
  • a very poor 3-point shooting team all season, and even worse in the SEC.
  • the worst in the conference at getting to the free throw line
  • a good free-throw shooting team. Too bad they hardly ever get to shoot them.
  • a team that forces a fair number of turnovers — third in conference.
  • not a frequent 3-point shooting team.
  • mostly a man-to-man defensive team, but they do play some zone.

South Carolina Player notes

  • Duane Notice is the Gamecock’s leading scorer and best 3-point shooter among the starters at 34%. He is not particularly efficient and would probably qualify as more of a volume shooter. He does pass the ball well for an off-guard, however.
  • Sindarius Thornwell is the 2nd leading scorer and a dangerous slashing wing who gets to the basket. He is where the Gamecocks tend to go when they need points, and is also an excellent defender. Of all the gamecocks, he gets to the foul line the most, and shoots a solid, but unspectacular percentage. He has struggled from the arc this season, but shot 37% last year.
  • Tyrone Johnson is the third guard in the three-guard lineup, and the 6‘3" senior is also a fine passer and defender. He has been struggling from three also this season.
  • Laimonas Chatkevicius is the most efficient starter, shooting 60% from 2 and 42% from the arc. He is a reluctant 3-point shooter, but his size demands most of his touches come inside. He’s also a good shot blocker and rebounder.
  • Demetrius Henry is an inside player who has good length but is a little thin. He is a good shot blocker,, but not a great rebounder. He is also extremely foul-prone.
  • Marcus Stroman is a solid passer and outstanding defender. He has good size at 6‘2" and is likely a future star for the Gamecocks.
  • Mindaugas Kacinas is a junior wing who can score inside and out. He mostly takes good shots and he makes them, shooting 66% inside and 43% outside. He’s also an outstanding, and I mean like #32 in the nation, offensive rebounder.

Injuries

Kentucky

  • Alex Poythress is lost for the season with a torn ACL

South Carolina

  • Austin Constable is out for the season with a knee injury
  • TeMarcus Blanton is out for the season with a hip injury

Analysis

The Gamecocks badly need a win, and versus Kentucky is a really tough place to try to get one. Frank Martin’s team has played well in spurts all season, but consistency has been a major issue and South Carolina is mired in a nasty shooting slump that has thrown a large bucket of cold water on what at one time was a very promising season.

South Carolina is going to struggle to find shots against a Kentucky defense that has been punishing teams inside the arc. The Gamecocks’ lack of a consistent 3-point threat has made them try to get shots closer to the basket, and that has been no-mans land for college basketball teams versus Kentucky this season. Teams unable to shoot the three against the Wildcats have often found themselves facing sub-20 point halves and double-digit deficits.

Fortunately for USC, they do have a pretty good defensive team. The problem is, they haven’t been able to stop anybody in conference, and unless a light goes on somewhere, it’s hard to figure out how they’ll stop Kentucky. The Wildcats are just bigger, stronger, and deeper. They do have some guys who can make the three and could open up the interior, but that would be a departure from their last five games.

Road games are always tough, and this USC team has beaten some very good teams, most notably Iowa State. So we know that they can be good enough to beat the best. The question really boils down to which USC team shows up for this game, and if it is the team of recent vintage, they have a fair chance of being crushed like Alabama and Missouri were. But if they make shots, and the Wildcats loaf around like they did against Ole Miss, this could be the death of another undefeated season.

We’ll have to see tomorrow. Go, ‘Cats!