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Kentucky falls to South Carolina at the buzzer: 5 things to know and postgame banter

The Cats drop their first game of SEC play as they fall apart in the second half.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks Wednesday night at the buzzer 81-78.

It was a bit of a sloppy game on both sides. Kentucky got out in front early and led the majority of the game, but they fell apart in the second half.

Next up, the Cats will travel to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Strong start

The starting lineup remained the same with Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, EJ Montgomery, and Nick Richards. And they were able to get out to a strong start.

Kentucky jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but the reason I’m saying it was a strong start instead of a fast one is because it took about five minutes to build that lead.

The defense was strong and the offense was slow, but regardless, I’ll take an 8-0 every game no matter how long it takes to build it.

However, when the lead was supposed to swell, it withstood because of...

Foul trouble

Kentucky got into early foul trouble in this one. After a fun first half against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday that both teams combined for eight fouls, it looks like there was a regression today.

Richards and Montgomery both picked up two early fouls, and Immanuel Quickley picked up two, as well.

It’s safe to say that limited UK both offensively and defensively, as they were without both post players, their best shot blocker, and their best three-point shooter.

The foul trouble continued into the second half as both Montgomery and Hagans fouled out.

Kentucky is a different team with Nick Richards on/off the floor

The growth we’ve seen from Richards this season has been nothing short of amazing. As they say, patience is a virtue.

The problem now is that there’s no one to fill in if Richards gets in foul trouble or doesn’t play well. And this team is a completely different team based on whether the seven-footer is in the game or not.

Not only do the Cats miss his presence in the post, but they also miss his ability to rebounds and block or affect shots on the defensive end of the floor.

His absence became extremely noticeable to me towards the end of the first half when the Gamecocks were driving the lane and no one could alter shots at the rim. It’s one thing to miss his post presence, but it’s another when other guys overcompensate to make up for his loss on the other end.

I truly believe other players are more likely to get in foul trouble when he’s in foul trouble because they don’t have him as a safety net in case their man gets around them.

Struggles at the line continue

Coming into tonight’s game, Kentucky ranked first in the SEC and sixth nationally in free throw percentage. However, UK has struggled from the line the last few games and that continued tonight.

First, we complained about the Cats’ inability to shoot from deep, but we praised their ability to shoot from the line. In a sense, one would think that the two are somewhat correlated. If you can shoot, you can shoot.

But then, Kentucky started hitting a lot of three-pointers at a much higher rate. The problem was the sacrifice for the increase in threes was the decrease in free throw percentage. Everyone is regressing at the same time.

Now, it’s become an issue. The Cats need to get it fixed, and quick.

Immanuel Quickley...really?

Is there anyone in the country hotter than Quickley right now? I mean, I’ve never seen anything like the hot streak he’s on.

The sophomore guard continues to be UK’s lone knockdown three-point shooter, and every time he lets go of it, you’re confident it’s going in.

It’s been said over and over that Quickley is a gym rat and works like hell to get better every day. Well, it’s showing. His improvement has been second to none. And the best part? He does so much more than just shoot and score.

Hopefully, he’ll finally work his way back into the starting five here soon because it’s much deserved.

It was a sloppy and physical game, but South Carolina looked like the worst team I’ve seen in the SEC so far and the Cats still lost.

That’s another bad loss on the resume.

Hopefully, they can bounce back on Saturday, but that’ll be a much tougher matchup than this one.