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Thoughts on Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina and postgame notes

UK has a lot of potential, but they’ve still got a ways to go before reaching it.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky went to South Carolina and absolutely fell apart down the stretch, losing 76-68. A lot of negativity can be said about this game, but we need to stay in a positive mindset while looking at the negative aspects.

The first half wasn’t the best half Kentucky has played this season, but after a terrible start to the game where they trailed 11-4 at the first media timeout, Kentucky would finally get going and battle back to take command. Kentucky took their first lead 26-24 with 6:47 left in the half and carried that to take a 37-34 lead to the break.

Kentucky came out of the locker room and executed very well, building a 44-36 lead by the first break. The Cats would get the lead up to 57-43 before they fell apart. After Kentucky had that lead, they were outscored 33-11 for the remained of the game. That is a recipe for a loss and that is exactly what happened.

Thoughts on the game

Kentucky was brutal down the stretch

As I just stated Kentucky was outscored 33-11 from the moment they went up 14. Also, down the stretch, Kentucky went 3/8 from the free throw line and at one point the game is tied if they just convert from the line. Meanwhile, South Carolina took advantage of their trips to the line to put the game on ice. This was a painful lesson for the young Cats that they have to play for 40 minutes, no matter how much they’re leading by.

Kentucky struggled from 3

Kentucky came very close to having the three-point streak end tonight but luckily Knox was able to make one late in the game. The Cats went 1/11 (9.1%) from behind the line and that didn’t help when UK stopped driving to the rim. No inside presence and an inability to make a 3 sets up for disaster. We’ve seen UK have plenty of games where they were efficient from deep, so hopefully this was more of an aberration than a sign of what’s to come.

Jarred Vanderbilt had promising debut

The highly anticipated debut of Vanderbilt finally came against South Carolina and was a success. Vanderbilt didn’t get much playing time, understandably, but while he was out there he scored 6 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and had 3 assists. With Shai in foul trouble, Cal had Vanderbilt playing the point and he did a really good job. He had great energy and made some nice passes. As he gets more experience, he can drastically change this team.

Stay positive

Although UK lost this game, we have some things to be excited about. Kevin Knox is finally getting his confidence back and starting to produce on the offensive end. This team has been short handed for the last few games. Vanderbilt is now playing, and UK should eventually get Quade Green and Tai Wynyard back, so the Cats should be ready to hit their groove soon enough.

Here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky fell to 14-4 overall and 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina improved to 12-6 overall, 4-4 in league play.
  • UK still leads the series 51-12 and 20-8 in Columbia, South Carolina.
  • The Wildcats dropped to 2-2 on the road this season.
  • After playing four on the road over its last five games, Kentucky will return home Saturday to host Florida. That game will be at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN. ESPN College GameDay will make its season debut from Rupp Arena at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington, Kevin Knox and Nick Richards for the fifth time this season and third game in a row. UK lost its first game with that lineup.
  • South Carolina opened the game on a 7-0 run. Richards settled the Wildcat down with a jumper at the 17:45 mark. He scored UK’s first four points as South Carolina staked to an early 11-4 lead.
  • After falling behind 21-12, the Wildcats locked down on defense. Kentucky held South Carolina without a point for 2:31 of game time to climb back to 22-20.
  • Kentucky took its first lead at 26-24 on a Richards’ layup with 6:40 left in the half. Richards scored four straight points to give the Wildcats the lead.
  • The Wildcats held South Carolina without a field goal from the 13:22 mark until 2:53 left in half. Kentucky turned a 19-12 deficit into a 30-30 tie.
  • Knox led the Wildcats with 10 points and four rebounds in the first half. Richards pitched in with eight points.
  • Knox’s 10 points marked the fifth time he’s reached double-figure scoring by halftime but the first since Jan. 3 at LSU.
  • Kentucky made (17) and shot (22) a first-half season high at the free-throw line.
  • UK’s 15 first-half fouls were its most in any half this season and the most it’s committed in a half since 15 personal fouls in the second half vs. Missouri on Feb. 21, 2017.
  • Kentucky fell to 10-2 this season when leading at halftime.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky opened the half on a 7-0 run to take 44-34 lead. Stretched back to the first-half-ending 5-0 run, the run was 12-0 overall.
  • When UK took a 44-34 lead with 16:34 left in the game, it marked the Wildcats’ first double-figure lead in any game since the 29-point win vs. Louisville on Dec. 29.
  • Kentucky extended its streak of 1,031 consecutive games with a 3-pointer when Knox hit a long ball with 7:00 left in the game. It was the Wildcats’ only trey of the game.
  • The Wildcats hit one 3-pointer for just the seventh time in the John Calipari era and first since only knocking down one at Vanderbilt on Jan. 10, 2017.
  • UK took its largest lead of the game at 57-43 with 11:43 left, but that’s where the game turned. South Carolina answered with a 7-0 run to get it to 57-50. Gilgeous-Alexander ended the run with a pull-up jumper, but South Carolina would continue its comeback.
  • Kentucky seemed to have an answer and took a 65-58 lead with 6:12 left, but South Carolina promptly answered with another 11-0 spurt to take a 69-65 lead with 2:47 to go, an advantage it would never relinquish. Overall, the Gamecocks closed the game on an 18-3 run.
  • After Vanderbilt made a jumper with 6:12 left in the game, UK failed to make a field goal the rest of the way.
  • The Wildcats also went 3 for 8 from the free-throw line during that stretch and 6 for 14 for the half.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky’s 32 personal fouls are the second most of the Calipari era. UK committed 33 at Kansas on Jan. 30, 2016.
  • The game featured 59 fouls overall. UK went 23 of 36 from the free-throw line while South Carolina shot 25 of 38 from the charity stripe.
  • South Carolina’s 25 makes are the most a Kentucky opponent has made since Tennessee sunk 30 on Feb. 2, 2016, and the 38 attempts are the most by a UK opponent since Kansas attempted 47 the game before, on Jan. 30, 2016. Usually a recipe for disaster, both of those games were losses as well.
  • The Wildcats have shot 34 or more free throws and made 22 or more in three straight games.
  • Three players fouled out. It’s the first time three players have fouled out since Jan. 30, 2016, at Kansas, which was also a loss.
  • Three other Wildcats were also in foul trouble with four fouls.