Wednesday night saw what the floor looks like for the Kentucky Wildcats, as they were run out of the building in a 79-62 loss to South Carolina.
It marked the Cats’ second straight road loss and South Carolina’s second straight win over them, as well as the first victory over a top-25 team for second-year head coach Lamont Paris.
It is never a good night for Kentucky when the court gets stormed in a hostile road environment, and that is exactly what happened Wednesday night inside a rowdy Colonial Life Arena that saw the Gamecocks’ highest-ranked home win since taking down No. 1 Kentucky in 2010.
Here are some bright spots and players whose stock might have fallen or for one, continues to fall after the shock defeat in Columbia.
Simply put, Dillingham was the lone shining star in Wednesday’s debacle at South Carolina. After a lackluster performance against Georgia, Dillingham responded nicely on a personal level against the Gamecocks as he led the Cats in scoring with 16 points as he went 7-14 from the field as well as two boards and two assists.
Now, Dillingham has been a spark off the bench all season for the Cats, and Wednesday night, it seemed he was the main show, which might lead to some Kentucky fans asking why he isn’t starting.
In a tough one to take for Kentucky, Dillingham was one player who looked like he came out to play.
Now, Kentucky fans don’t want to hear this, but it is time to talk about Reed Sheppard. It seems like the days of talking about Sheppard as a potential candidate for SEC Player of the Year are long behind us.
While Sheppard has and will take over another game to win for Kentucky, he was virtually nonexistent against the Gamecocks as he didn’t score his first points until deep into the second half and finished the game with just one made shot from the field and a single made free throw just isn’t enough from the Kentucky native.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only time Sheppard has seemingly disappeared in a game, as he scored zero against Saint Joseph’s, three against Mizzou, and now just three against the Gamecocks.
Sheppard could score 20+ any night, but he could just as easily be a non-factor as well, yet somehow is a projected top-five pick.
When will Edwards absolutely take a game over and show everyone why he was highly touted prior to coming to Lexington? This is the question that Kentucky fans have been asking themselves since the beginning of the season, and this game still has not happened for Edwards.
In a game that the Cats needed Edwards to impress, he did anything but that. With just two points that game from made free throws, Edwards has yet again left Kentucky fans asking for more.
John Calipari’s defense collapsed against the Gamecocks. Simple as that. But this is not a trend that is just unique to the loss in Columbia but has been a trend all season, and to make it even worse for the Wildcats, it seems to be getting even worse.
Kentucky right now is giving up 85.2 points per game in the SEC this season, including two games that saw the opponent drop at least 96 points.
Now, lack of defense isn’t the end of the world as this team is more than able to score points, actually, it’s one of the best teams in the country at doing just that, but when a night comes along that sees Kentucky unable to hit makeable shots it is imperative to rely on some solid defense and the Cats did not do that.
Luckily for Kentucky, defense and effort can be fixed, but the question remains: Will it be fixed in time for March?