Patrick Patterson after yet another run in with Sam Muldrow and Dominique Archie.
Well, if you watched it, you know what happened: South Carolina plastered Kentucky by a score of 77-59. That score really doesn't tell the story; we were up by close to 30 midway through the second half, but the Cats scratched their way back to relative respectability while we played sloppily late in the game. Devan Downey led USC with 21, while Pat Patterson led all scorers with 28. Patterson, though, will go down as something of a goat in this game. A lot of his points came late in the game at the free throw stripe; while it mattered earlier in the game, he spent his time getting the ball shoved down his throat by our big men. Sam Muldrow was the defensive hero of the day, with seven blocks. USC set a school record with a total of 16 blocks.
How did we win this game by such a large margin? Surprisingly, post defense was the key. Although Kentucky's big men play was supposed to be key for taking advantage of our defensive weaknesses down low, Patterson wasn't able to get into the game until it was too late because he kept getting blocked. Darrin Horn's choice to have the backside defender shadow and swat away was pure genius, as Patterson, true to form, tossed up short shot after short shot instead of passing to the teammate that our double teams left open. We also forced quite a few turnovers, as expected against a team that has played sloppily at times. Offensively, we looked very solid until late in the game. Downey was able to drive the ball and either score or create. We shot 40% from beyond the arc, returning to a sharpshooting form we had lost over the past few games. Another surprise: we shot 72% from the line, including a perfect 8-8 by Zam Fredrick.
All in all, we played an incredible game tonight. Coach Horn had a perfect game plan and we executed admirably. UK, on the other hand, looked lost for most of the night. Part of that was due to how well we played; it's hard to get into a game when your opponent is playing as well as we did tonight. But, and I mean this with all due respect to UK, the Cats' inability to adjust to some of the things we were doing was very striking. UK has played well at times this year, but tonight was a serious mark against their standing on the national stage.
This win puts us alone for first in the East at one game ahead of Florida and Tennessee and two ahead of Kentucky due to the tiebreaking sweep we have over the Cats. We're now in excellent position to take the East and, barring a collapse, I would say that it's extremely unlikely that we'll finish any lower than second. That will net us a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament and thus an excellent chance to bolster our NCAAs resume by a deep run towards the SEC Title. As far as our NCAAs chances go, we're now two victories away from moving off the bubble and into lock status. Next step? Vandy at Memorial Gym. That one will be tough, but if you knew that we might play like we did tonight again, would you bet against us?