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Kentucky punishes South Carolina: 5 things to know and postgame cheers

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The Cats leave no doubt in their final game of the regular season.

Big Blue Drew - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats got back on the winning track Saturday with a convincing 92-64 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Davion Mintz and Brandon Boston balled out with a combined 41 points as they kept pace with the Gamecocks for stretches.

Kentucky’s defense was stout, forcing South Carolina into 17 turnovers and below 40 percent shooting from the field.

Now sitting at 9-15, the Cats have clinched a spot in the 8 vs. 9 seed game in next week’s SEC Tournament. Here’s what you need to know from today’s fun win!

Another fluke, or something more?

I’m writing this paragraph early in the game for good reason.

Regardless of how Saturday’s game left you feeling about the Cats — you might as well forget it. This team has proven to be painfully inconsistent, and your guess is as good as mine as to which UK team will show up in Nashville next week for the SEC tournament.

For moments this year, it appeared as if John Calipari had positioned his team to turn the corner only to come crashing back down to reality with poor performances.

What do we know?

Kentucky will have to win four games in a row to win the SEC tournament — something they’ve yet to do all season.

Still, it was great to end the regular season on a high note. While it remains to be seen if it translates into a good showing in the SEC Tournament, winning always feels nice.

Jacob Toppin gets his first start.

Better late than never, I guess?

Many folks would argue that Jacob Toppin moving into the starting lineup was long overdue considering the impressive season he’s had up to this point. Despite being unpolished, the Rhode Island transfer has without a doubt contributed energy and his fair share of electric moments throughout the duration of the year.

Coming into the South Carolina game, Toppin was averaging 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds while playing just over 17 minutes per game.

Unfortunately, Toppin struggled to produce today, despite playing over 20 minutes. He made just one field goal and never seemed really comfortable on the offensive end, though he had some nice moments defensively.

Anybody who has watched Kentucky basketball this season knows that Jacob Toppin is an important piece for this program moving forward. When he arrived in Lexington, most everyone knew that his pedigree and athleticism were there, but questions existed about how those tools may translate to the court.

It is obvious after his first year that he could be a special player at the University of Kentucky. Getting his first start today in Rupp Arena could be a theme moving into 2022.

The Cats shot the ball well.

Fueled by BJ Boston who made his first three shots, the Cats got off to a hot start from the field.

Early on things were rolling for Kentucky despite cooling off a bit during the first 20 minutes of play. UK would knock down a total of five threes in the first half — a number I think most all fans would be pleased with.

Half No. 2 began as the Davion Mintz show. The senior drilled a barrage of long-range shots that ignited the few thousand people in Rupp Arena. It’s something to behold when Mintz gets going. He’d finish the game with 20 points.

Kentucky would go on to make 13(!) three-pointers in the game.

When this team gets points from behind the three-point line, it makes them so much more difficult to beat. Hopefully, the hot shooting makes the trip to Nashville because, if it does, things could get interesting.

Kentucky shut down AJ Lawson

If there is one thing that this team has proven it can do this season it is defend. When the Cats are locked in they have some special talent defensively that can really disrupt an opposing team’s rhythm. That point was made today when Kentucky shut down South Carolina’s best player.

AJ Lawson came into the game averaging over 17 points per game, which was good for third in the SEC. He’d finish today’s contest with just six points on 2-for-10 shooting, one of his worst outings this season.

That’s the kind of lock-down defense Kentucky will need to win multiple games in Nashville.

All aboard to Nashville

Like previously mentioned, Saturday’s game against South Carolina didn’t have much meaning.

But building some momentum surely wasn’t a bad thing. especially when you consider that it was a blow-out victory with a confidence-building offense. Kentucky won and won convincingly for one of the few times this entire season. Anytime you can dominate a Frank Martin-coached team then you should feel pretty good about the effort your team gave.

If UK is going to make some noise next week in Nashville, then the hot shooting will have present like it was today. Even if the Cats go down it’ll be nice to see it in a game where they can still put some points on the board.