With Saturday’s final horn, Coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats can finally close the book on a dreadful regular season, beating South Carolina 92-64 in a make-up game at Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats, 9-15 (8-9 in SEC) now have new life as they head to next week’s SEC Tournament as a projected No. 9-seed, with a Thursday matchup against either Mississippi State or Missouri at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The winner plays top-seeded Alabama on Friday.
In an encore performance from last week’s Senior Day, Davion Mintz continued to torch the nets with 20 points that included 6/11 shooting from three-point range. The 6-3 graduate transfer had 21 points last Saturday against Florida.
The Wildcats finished 13/27 (48.1%) from behind the arc with BJ Boston also having a big day, finishing with a team-high 21 points on 7/13 shooting. Olivier Sarr added 15 points, while Isaiah Jackson added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Kentucky route was the largest margin of victory this season and provided an opportunity for freshman Cam’Ron Fletcher to return to action along with senior Riley Welch, who played the final two minutes with fellow walk-ons Brennan Canada, Kareem Watkins and Zan Payne, who scored in the post with under a minute remaining for his first career basket.
South Carolina’s 2-3 zone just couldn’t contain Mintz and Boston on Saturday as the duo combined for 41 points and 12 three-pointers to take home co-MVP honors in the win.
Both shot the ball with confidence and Mintz continued his role as the team’s offensive leader despite taking over point guard duties in place of Devin Askew who was benched in favor of Jacob Toppin. Boston, who’s had an up-and-down season, get hot early, scoring eight of Kentucky’s first 12 points to give the Wildcats a 36-28 halftime lead.
Mintz and Boston have to hit shots in the postseason to open space for Jackson, Jacob Toppin and Sarr to get loose and score around the basket. After seeing some zone defense the past few games, Kentucky should get back to an up-tempo style in the tournament, assuming Jackson and Starr can stay out of foul trouble.
The Wildcats have won four of the last five SEC Tournaments and was the top seed going into the 2020 event that was cancelled due to COVID-19. Kentucky needs to run off four straight wins to claim the title and advance to this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Put up a season-high 92 points in the regular season finale.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 6, 2021
Highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/IrIFjgwZ5F