USA TODAY Sports
USC's basketball season is teetering on the precipice of another season much like the past two after a blowout loss in Lexington to the Kentucky Wildcats. Keep in mind that, while it's certainly a good team, this is not the Kentucky of the past three years. The usual star power is there with players such as Nerlens Noel, but the team has been inconsistent and is currently unranked. However, the 'Cats made us like amateurs tonight in Rupp, putting on a dominant show for the home crowd. The game wasn't close after the Gamecocks gave up a one-point lead midway through the first half.
With Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, and other big muscle, the Wildcats had a major advantage against our height-challenged starting five, and it showed. Noel and Cauley-Stein dominated the game on the block, and when that wasn't the case, the 'Cats guards were beating our aggressive, undisciplined perimeter defense into the lane and dishing for easy lay-ins. The 'Cats went 27-44 from the field for a 61.4 FG%. Michael Carrera had a good game on the offensive side for Carolina, but he was clearly outmatched on the other end against Kentucky's superior talent. Kentucky also had a lot of success contesting our shots, with Noel, one of the nation's top shot-blockers, going for 5 blocks.
The other news was the continued inability of Carolina to do anything in the halfcourt offense. This team is generally only successful offensively in transition and off the offensive boards. You have to give Martin credit for at least getting them to run a halfcourt offense, which wasn't the case last year, but it's clear that they're not good enough to succeed against teams that play smart defense and don't overattack the ball.
After three straight ugly losses, you have to worry at this point that this team is losing focus as the likelihood of a successful season becomes slimmer and slimmer. There was reason for optimism while the team was losing close games, but it failed to build momentum by winning many of those contests, and now we're starting to play more like the team we thought we might be before conference play began. All is not lost, as Carolina could finish around .500 with a few more wins, but it also wouldn't surprise me to see us drop all or most of the remaining contests after tonight.
See A Sea of Blue's take on the game here.